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Resolution on Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Technology and Privacy Principles

WHEREAS, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a technology that uses various electronic devices, such as microchip tags, tag readers, computer servers, and software, to automate library transactions; and

WHEREAS, the use of RFID technology promises to improve library operations by increasing the efficiency of library transactions, reducing workplace injuries, and improving services to library users; and

WHEREAS, many libraries are adopting or in the process of adopting RFID technology to automate library circulation, inventory management, and security control; and

WHEREAS, consumers, consumer groups, librarians, and library users have raised concerns about the misuse of RFID technology to collect information on library users' reading habits and other activities without their consent or knowledge; and

WHEREAS, protecting user privacy and confidentiality  has long been an integral part of the mission of libraries; and

WHEREAS, the ALA Code of Ethics  states, "We protect each library user's right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted"; and

WHEREAS, Privacy: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights  states that "The American Library Association affirms that rights of privacy are necessary for intellectual freedom and are fundamental to the ethics and practice of librarianship," and calls upon librarians "to maintain an environment respectful and protective of the privacy of all users"; and

WHEREAS, the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee  recognizes the importance of developing policies and guidelines for appropriate implementation of RFID technology in light of the profession's commitment to preserving user privacy and its concern for preserving the trust of library users; and

WHEREAS, the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee and the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy, recognizing the immediate need to draft privacy principles to protect and promote ALA's values, joined with the Book Industry Study Group  (BISG) to form a working group dedicated to developing a set of privacy principles to govern the use of RFID technology by all organizations and industries related to the creation, publication, distribution, and retail sale of books and their use in libraries; now, therefore, let it be

RESOLVED, that the American Library Association endorse the "BISG Policy Statement Policy #002: RFID - Radio Frequency Identification Privacy Principles" (PDF) developed by the IFC and the OITP with the BISG and other working groups; and be it further

RESOLVED, that ALA affirm established privacy norms within and across the business, government, educational, and nonprofit spectrum, specifically acknowledging two essential privacy norms:

  • Data transferred among trading partners related to customer and/or patron transactions shall be used solely for related business practices and no unauthorized transaction shall be permitted.
  • Data related to customer and/or patron transactions shall not compromise standard confidentiality agreements among trading partners or information users; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the ALA adopt the following "RFID Privacy Principles" developed by the IFC and OITP with the BISG RFID working group:

All businesses, organizations, libraries, educational institutions and non-profits that buy, sell, loan, or otherwise make available books and other content to the public utilizing RFID technologies shall:

  • Implement and enforce an up-to-date organizational privacy policy that gives notice and full disclosure as to the use, terms of use, and any change in the terms of use for data collected via new technologies and processes, including RFID.
  • Ensure that no personal information is recorded on RFID tags which, however, may contain a variety of transactional data.
  • Protect data by reasonable security safeguards against interpretation by any unauthorized third party.
  • Comply with relevant federal, state , and local laws as well as industry best practices and policies.
  • Ensure that the four principles outlined above must be verifiable by an independent audit; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the ALA continue to monitor and to address concerns about the potential misuse of RFID technology to collect information on library users' reading habits and other activities without their consent or knowledge; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the ALA develop implementation guidelines for the use of RFID technologies in libraries.

Adopted by the ALA Council
January 19, 2005
Boston, Massachusetts

Related Links

Radio Frequency Identification Technology