October 15, 2019

NISO Releases User Data Privacy Principles Related to Use of Library and Library-Related Systems

From the National Information Standards Organization:

The National Information Standards Organization (NISO) has published a set of consensus principles for the library, content-provider and software-provider communities to address privacy issues related to the use of library and library-related systems.  This set of principles developed over the past 8 months focus on balancing the expectations library users have regarding their intellectual freedoms and their privacy with the operational needs of systems providers.

The NISO Privacy Principles set forth a core set of guidelines by which libraries, systems providers and publishers can foster respect for patron privacy throughout their operations.

The Principles outline at a high level basic concepts and areas which need to be addressed to support a greater understanding for and respect of privacy-related concerns in systems development, deployment, and user interactions.

The twelve principles covered in the document address the following topics: Shared Privacy Responsibilities; Transparency and Facilitating Privacy Awareness; Security; Data Collection and Use; Anonymization; Options and Informed Consent; Sharing Data with Others; Notification of Privacy Policies and Practices; Supporting Anonymous Use; Access to One’s Own User Data; Continuous Improvement and Accountability.

The Preamble of the Principles notes that, “Certain personal data are often required in order for digital systems to deliver information, particularly subscribed content. Additionally, user activity data can provide useful insights on how to improve collections and services. However, the gathering, storage, and use of these data must respect the trust users place in libraries and their partners. There are ways to address these operational needs while also respecting the user’s rights and expectations of privacy.”

“Working collaboratively through a set of open meetings and discussion forums, a team of librarians, publishers and systems providers crafted these principles,” said Todd Carpenter, NISO’s Executive Director.  “This fact distinguishes this effort from other privacy-related efforts in our community.  By working together to deeply grasp the foundational nature of respect for patron privacy among suppliers as well as to understand the operational needs and product development process among the library community, the team was able to come to a nuanced understanding of the related issues.  This joint effort allowed for the creation of a balanced set of principles, which achieve the common goal of providing the best possible user experience built from its core with respect for privacy.”

Organizations and individuals are encouraged to provide public comments on the NISO Privacy Principles, as well as register their support for the principles, on the NISO website.  Additional work in the coming year is envisioned to make these high-level principles operational for publishers, content-providers and software suppliers.

This project was generously supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

More information about the project, including presentations, recordings of the virtual and in-person meetings, and other background information may be found here.

Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) 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 Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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