open society institute gives american library association $350,000 seed grant for 21st century privacy rights initiative

Contact: Deborah Caldwell-Stone
OIF Deputy Director
For Immediate Release,
May 21, 2008

Open Society Institute gives American Library Association $350,000 seed grant for 21st Century privacy rights initiative<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />CHICAGO—The American Library Association announced today that it has received a $350,000 seed grant from the Open Society Institute. The grant will launch a three-year public engagement initiative to inspire library patrons and Americans to stand with librarians as they fight to usher in privacy standards for the digital age.

The first phase of the privacy rights initiative will kick off with a provocative forum titled “Privacy: Is It Time for a Revolution?”, among Information Age titans Cory Doctorow, boingboing blogger and science fiction author, Dan Roth, senior writer for Wired magazine and Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, from 1:30-3:30 p.m. on June 29, during ALA’s Annual Conference in Anaheim, Calif.

Collaborating with ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom is a blue-ribbon privacy advisory panel of 13 thought leaders that includes representatives from the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Association of American Publishers, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and Google, among others (complete list at end).

“While many people and pundits have been saying their RIPs for privacy rights, librarians have remained guardians of the First Amendment for hundreds of thousands of library patrons, challenging subpoenas for reading records and online searches, ushering in legislative protections and fighting the erosion of fundamental rights,” said Judith Krug, director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, who is the lead investigator of the campaign.

She continued, “Recently, heavy users of digital media—bloggers, social media experts, and online journalists—are speaking out about the need to recommit ourselves to privacy standards. As we launch this campaign, we invite our nation’s librarians to ‘opt in’ to share their stories from the front lines of America’s privacy wars and to lead Americans in a conversation about the importance of privacy to sustaining a democracy in the 21st century. We also welcome additional funding partners to help us achieve our goal to reestablish the rights of Americans to read, explore, and learn through books and electronic media without someone peeking over their shoulder,” said Krug.

About the Panelists of “Privacy: Is It Time for a Revolution?”

  • Cory Doctorow, boingboing blogger, and acclaimed science fiction author, says we should treat personal electronic data with the same care and respect as weapons-grade plutonium, because it is dangerous long-lasting and, once it has leaked, there's no getting it back. Doctorow says the world’s toughest privacy measures are as a wet Kleenex against the merciless onslaught of data acquisition.
  • Beth Givens is Director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group that raises awareness about privacy threats, empowers consumers with information and documents and responds to privacy complaints.
  • Dan Roth is a senior writer for Wired Magazine. Wired writers are known for vigilantly covering the erosion and evolution of privacy in the Information Age.

ALA’s Privacy Advisory Panel

Lillie Coney, Electronic Privacy Information Center; Alan Davidson, Google, Inc.; Chris Finan, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression; Beth Givens, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse; Bowie Kotrla, chair, ALA IFC Privacy Subcommittee; Tim Lordan, Internet Education Foundation; Kent Oliver, chair, ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee; Robert O’Neil, Thomas Jefferson Center at the University of Virginia; Judith Platt, Association of American Publishers; Stephanie Sarnoff, member, ALA IFC Privacy Subcommittee; Ari Schwartz, Center for Democracy and Technology; Larry Siems, PEN American Center; Gail Weymouth, member, ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee.

About the Office for Intellectual Freedom

Established December 1, 1967, the Office for Intellectual Freedom is charged with implementing ALA policies concerning the concept of intellectual freedom as embodied in the Library Bill of Rights, the Association’s basic policy on free access to libraries and library materials. The goal of the office is to educate librarians and the general public about the nature and importance of intellectual freedom in libraries.