This month, I’ll be focusing my off-the-clock reading habits on issues of privacy in academic libraries. The term “privacy” carries a lot of baggage and calls to mind many different issues. In the context of the internet and social networks, the discourse tends to focus on regulation (who should do it, how much should be done) and advertising (esp. behavioral targeting). In the context of health or medical privacy, there are concerns over access to patient records, both print and electronic. On the whole, privacy discussions in the popular media tend to focus on information collection, storage, and use and the difficulty of determining which information should be public and which should be private.

Some of these issues relate to academic libraries, though many do not. In future posts, I’ll be looking at the privacy statements of academic libraries, issues in the blogosphere, and ALA’s official stance on current issues related to individual and consumer privacy, especially online and through mobile devices. In the meantime, I’ve put together a short list of useful resources for learning more about privacy in today’s cultural environment.

  • Electronic Privacy and Information Center: a public interest research center in Washington, D.C created “to focus public attention on emerging civil liberties issues and to protect privacy, the First Amendment, and constitutional values.” Check out the “Hot Issues” topic in the left sidebar for latest news and thorough summaries of current issues.
  • Center for Democracy and Technology’s Guide to Online Privacy: a guide developed “to educate Internet users about online privacy and offer practical suggestions and policy recommendations.” It includes privacy basics, current issues, existing regulations, and national surveys. The CDT site also contains information on health privacy, internet openness, and free expression.
  • Cornell University Law School’s Legal Information Institute: this page contains info on existing privacy laws, rights extended by the constitution, and court decisions.
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation: the “first line of defense” when freedoms in the networked world come under attack. EFF works with citizens and other advocacy groups to influence legislation in favor of individual privacy rights.
  • American Library Association’s Privacy Resources for Librarians, Library Users, and Families: related to all types of libraries, this guide outlines ALA’s stance on the confidentiality of patron records, an explanation of the Library Bill of Rights, and help for developing an institutional privacy policy.
  • CQ Researcher: If you have access to this resource, check out Patrick Marshall’s 2009 article on privacy. It includes a bibliography, a summary of current issues, pros and cons of various federal actions, directions for further research. (Marshall, P. (2009, November 6). Online privacy. CQ Researcher19, 933–956.)
  • Wikipedia on Privacy: always a good starting place.

What resources on privacy do you recommend? What issues on privacy are most important to academic librarians? Share your thoughts in the comments!