Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The American Library Association Rallies to Cause of Privacy - Continues Leadership on the Issue

Last month the American Library Association (ALA) held a conference which included much discussion regarding their Office for Intellectual Freedom's larger project designed to rally librarians and their patrons to fight for privacy in both libraries and the society at large.

Better yet, the ALA has released a Privacy Initiative Concept Paper "Rallying Americans for the Right to Information Privacy" and a survey on privacy practices.
One of the pleasant and hopeful surprises for me during the past 7 year assault on our privacy and the Constitution has been the librarians and their leadership in standing up to our government's attempts to monitor everything we do...which necessarily found its way into the library. So stumbling across their latest work is no surprise to me, and in fact, I can think of no one better to lead such an effort.

As the site notes: ALA's new privacy rights initiative is intended to inspire library patrons to stand with librarians as they fight to usher in privacy standards in the digital age. The initiative responds to ALA Council's resolution calling for a national conversation on privacy, passsed at the 2006 Annual Conference in New Orleans.

Watch the video clip of what appears to be a kind of opening statement for the part of the event entitled Privacy: Is it Time for a Revolution? I think the presenter really nails the conflict and convergence of protecting the individual's right to privacy versus the government's efforts to monitor everything we do in the name of "security" as well as the corporate world's efforts to create a ubiquitous surveillance economy based on the buying and selling of personal information.

One especially interesting point made by the speaker is that one of the many societal costs that would be associated with a culture that lacks privacy, and in which nearly everything is categorized as either something to market or something to be feared, is how that undermines the very bonds that we share as human beings...and therefore make us human. In other words, who do you trust if everything about you might have a dollar sign on it or represent a possible security threat?

Similarly, does the government, by simply expanding the haystack they have access to really increase their chances of finding the needle? Or is the opposite true? (I'll go with the opposite)

I think what you'll find interesting about many of the videos from this conference, as well as the concept paper itself, is how active and organized the "privacy revolution" is becoming, and in this case, that includes those that are the information system creators and monitors (such as librarians). As one speaker notes, the kinds of information systems we build, and the kinds of privacy safeguards they include, will go a long way in determining the kind of society we will live in...and the kinds of relationships and interaction we'll have with one another.

I frankly am heartened by the growing effort to protect the privacy of patrons, be it patrons of libraries, or to social networks like Facebook.

Check out those opening remarks I alluded to. And, for the video of the full program entitled Privacy: "Is it Time for a Revolution?" click here.

1 comment:

SafeLibraries.org said...

"ALA's new privacy rights initiative" sounds nice but that might not be what the ALA really has in mind, so to speak. See my blog on this issue: Soros, the ALA, and Terrorists for a different point of view.

Sample sentence: "Given all of the above, and given both George Soros and Judith Krug appear to believe terrorists are entitled to privacy, though I am not making that statement, is the $350K infusion from Soros to the ALA for 'privacy' any cause for concern?"