Magazine article American Libraries

Delusions of Privacy

Magazine article American Libraries

Delusions of Privacy

Article excerpt

You know those privacy statements you receive regularly from banks and credit card companies? I generally throw mine in the wastebasket without reading them. Don't get me wrong, privacy is important to me, but it's also something I have always taken for granted, and too much insistence on it goes against my grain as a librarian. After all, information wants to be free.

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In this issue of American Libraries (p. 56), Daniel J. Solove asks, "Can we expect privacy anymore?" The George Washington University law professor observes that "nearly every organization and company we interact with now has tons of personal data about us." The American Library Association is as eager as any of them to gather demographics in the name of selling products and services. And what is wrong with that? I've always insisted on having a listed phone number and readily available e-mail address. Why make it difficult for people to find me? I want them to find me. And caller ID keeps telemarketers at bay. But privacy is about much more than keeping secrets, says Solove; it is also about confidentiality. Our medical, financial, and sexual histories, not to mention our thoughts, are private and should be shared only when and where we decide to share them.

As libraries have become subject to government invasions of privacy in the name of national security, librarians have come to understand that there is no better way to protect national security than to make sure that due process and basic rights are not sacrificed in the name of expedience. …

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