May 25, 2022

More on Library Privacy Issues and Concerns

Over the past couple of years we’ve been posting more and more about a number of library privacy concerns that our profession needs to address. At the same time I’ve been speaking on this topic during presentations.

Some of the issues that need discussion are:

  • Technical Issues About Technology We Use Including Transmission and Local Storage
  • Understanding by the Profession of the Issues
  • Education of Librarians and Library Users
  • Potential Data Leakage to Governments and Others
  • Potential Data Leakage To Third Parties
  • Data Analytics, Users, and Privacy
  • Transparency and Clear Disclosure to Our Users of Privacy Issues
  • Role of Library as a Privacy Info Center For Users
  • Reframing or Clarification of Ethics Statement (What Does Reader Privacy Mean in the Digital World?)

With those ideas in mind, and there are many others, I would like to point out some important and interesting reading and viewing.

1. Eric Hellman’s New Blog Post “Passwords Are Stored In Plain Text” (via Go To Hellman)
If you haven’t followed some of these issues to up until now this blog post will likely be both shocking and worrisome. We all have to do better and action needs to be taken now NOT later.

2. At the December 2015 CNI Meeting I had the pleasure and honor of speaking as part of a panel on library privacy. The video is now available. It includes presentations from Peter Brantley, Eric Hellman, Marshall Breeding, and myself. My portion of the presentation included a live demo showing how easy it is for anyone to see specific search terms and other data tied directly to a unique identifier for that specific device.

The presentation is titled “Swords, Dragons, and Spells: Libraries and User Privacy ” and the video is embedded below.

3. Another presentation from the most recent CNI that you should know about is titled, “Analytics and Privacy: A Proposed Framework for Negotiating Service and Value Boundaries” with Lisa Hinchliffe (U. of Illinois) and Andrew Asher (Indiana University) presenting. Video embedded below.

This issue-oriented briefing examines the role of libraries as producers and consumers of educational analytics, and proposes a framework of principles and best practices for the stewardship of these data throughout their lifecycle. After a short presentation of the proposed framework, the remainder of the session will be given to structured discussion to elicit feedback and critique and to discuss how institutions might fruitfully engage with local policy and practice development. Session participants will have the opportunity to contribute to an ongoing dialogue about user privacy, service quality, and ethical data collection, stewardship, and decision-making while considering the complexity of values expressed in the American Library Association Code of Ethics and other professional ethical frameworks. Through these discussions, this session aims to provide participants with tools to initiate discussions in their own organizations in order to develop policies and procedures related to data gathering and analysis that is informed by professional values as well as institutional priorities and requirements.

Slide Deck (PPT)

4. Finally, I also had the opportunity to be part of a panel at the Spring 2014 CNI Meeting. My slides are embedded below.

CNI Spring 2014 Presentation

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.