Privacy Resources for Librarians, Library Users, and Families

Existing ALA Policies, Guidelines, and Resources on Privacy and Confidentiality | Resources for Librarians Concerned about Internet Privacy | Privacy Resources for Library Patrons | Educational Resources for Children and Families | Bottom |

“How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.”—George Orwell

As technologies change, new laws get enacted, and access to the Internet becomes a more and more essential library resource, issues of privacy and confidentiality are becoming far more complex and important for our library patrons than they ever have before. This is all the more true since public and school libraries often provide the only Internet access available to many in our communities. With library catalogs acting as gateways to the World Wide Web, it is becoming imperative that libraries take a proactive role in educating the public about threats to their privacy and confidentiality posed by shopping, emailing, chatting, and even surfing the Internet. Libraries can take steps to minimize these risks; for instance, through enacting privacy policies, through educating patrons, and through installing privacy enhancing technologies. This resource is intended to assist in such efforts, and to encourage librarians to think about and question more than just circulation record policies when rewriting privacy and confidentiality policies.

Resources that provide various types of privacy protection have been gathered here, as a preliminary effort towards responding to Council’s charge, and to assist in researching the threats to and possible protections of Internet privacy. Those libraries seeking to write privacy-protecting policies and practices into their Internet Access Policies may benefit from these links to existing privacy policies and other professional, legal, and technological resources. Direct links from library home pages or library privacy policy pages to some of these educational resources could help library patrons seeking to both educate themselves about these issues and to protect their own personally-identifiable information.


I. Existing ALA Policies, Guidelines, and Resources on Privacy and Confidentiality

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Background to Privacy Interpretation


II. Resources for Librarians Concerned about Internet Privacy

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Papers and Presentations on Privacy

Fact or Fiction: Privacy in American Libraries,” presented at CFP 2002, the 12th Conference on Computers Freedom & Privacy by Carrie Gardner, Ph.D.

Privacy and Library Systems Before & After 9/11: Outline of talk given March 27, 2002 at the Public Library Directors' Forum” by Karen Coyle

Statements in Support of Privacy as a Human and Civil Right

“No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.” Article 12, Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

“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.” Article 3, Code of Ethics of the American Library Association (1995)

“4. Any organization creating, maintaining, using, or disseminating records of personally identifiable information must assure the reliability of the data for its intended use and must take precautions to prevent misuse; and 5. There must be a way for an individual to prevent personal information obtained for one purpose from being used for another purpose without his or her consent.” Principles 4-5 of the “Code of Fair Information Practices.” Source: U.S. Dept. of Health, Education and Welfare, Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Automated Personal Data Systems, Records, Computers, and the Rights of Citizens viii (1973). Quoted in CDT’s Guide to Online Privacy: Privacy Basics

“Demographic or identifying information gathered at servers that is not actively provided by the user should not be used beyond the analysis of site activity; in particular, no attempt should be made to identify individual users or to pass this information on to other parties.” Electronic Privacy Principles

Governmental and Legislative Issues

Privacy Protection: Tools and Technologies

Privacy Policies


III. Privacy Resources for Library Patrons

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IV. Educational Resources for Children and Families

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