Privacy & Surveillance

Civic Engagement Toolkit

Privacy Toolkit

ALA’s extensive First Amendment, liberty and privacy principles guide the association’s work in the federal legislative and policy arenas as well as at the state and local levels in order to protect personal privacy based upon a long standing commitment to patron privacy. Advancing the library community’s principles to protect patron confidentiality requires major grassroots work from the library community to promote library priorities in these environments. There are several parts of ALA that work on these important issues.

During 2015-2016, the Intellectual Freedom Committee approved several new privacy guidelines intended to assist librarians, libraries, schools and vendors to develop best practices for online privacy and data management and security. These include:   

These guidelines attempt to balance the need to protect reader privacy with the needs of libraries to collect user data and provide personalized services, while respecting and protecting the individual's right to make their own informed decisions in regards to how much privacy they are willing to trade for convenience or added benefits.   The Library Privacy Checklists, drafted by the IFC Privacy Subcommittee and the LITA Patron Privacy Interest Group, are intended to provide libraries of all types with practical guidance on implementing the Library Privacy Guidelines.

The IFC Privacy Subcomittee welcomes comments and suggestions for improvement.  Correspondence concerning the guidelines can be sent to Deborah Caldwell Stone (, staff liaison for the Privacy Subcommittee.

Office for Intellectual Freedom

In conjunction with the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC), ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) conducts the associations work on intellectual freedom and privacy issues at the state and local levels, often working also with state library association chapters. OIF also takes the lead on most ALA litigation on these issues.

Office of Government Relations

At the federal level, ALA’s Committee on Legislation (COL) works with the Office of Government Relations (OGR). The federal debates often focus on provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act, the Electronic Computer Privacy Act (ECPA), the Computer Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) and other surveillance and data retention proposals.

Federal Legislation