3 Comments

  • August 12, 2014 - 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Maybe I was being too charitable in thinking that the people presenting about data had considered and were protecting patron privacy. But between FERPA and IRBs, even a librarian with the most “corporate” view of patron data would have to consider these things to some extent.

    I agree with all of your suggestions above, especially the one on opting out. Right now, I don’t know of a library that provides anything like that and that’s probably because it would be difficult to make work in practice. How can you stop EZ Proxy from collecting information on x, y, and z people when it’s collecting data on everyone? Or would their data be deleted after it is taken from EZ Proxy into the Library’s data server? I’m not a data scientist by any stretch, so the answer may be simpler than I think.

    I try to imagine myself as a first-year student getting an email from the library about my non-library use, and I can’t imagine it not feeling like an invasion of my privacy. The big concern for me is that if users think that the library is collecting data about their library use, will they feel comfortable checking out whatever they want? Looking up controversial topics in our catalogs or databases? A lack of privacy can be equivalent to a lack of intellectual freedom since it can have a chilling effect on free expression. And since users don’t consent to this really, they don’t know what the library is and isn’t scrutinizing.

    Meaty issues. You should propose a panel on privacy for the next Library Assessment Conference. Those of us chatting about it on Twitter can’t be the only ones thinking about this.

  • Devin Savage
    August 13, 2014 - 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for a very thoughtful and ethically-minded counter to Kay’s talk – which I enjoyed. I agree with much of what you say here, but I have two quick thoughts:

    1) As it seems like more evidence is pointing to a correlation of student success and persistence when they use library’s electronic resources, I really balk at any barrier being put in place which might deter student usage. Even one more click seems like one too many, and any language that gives a student an idea that using library resources is potentially more dangerous than using google/etc., I see as toxic to both our mission and that of higher education as well. If we have to do opt-out to collect or use data from proxy servers, right now I feel that I would rather not collect that data at all.

    2) One piece of Kay’s talk I found particular interesting was the graph where perceptions of administration and IT usage of data collected were thought to be more effective than the library’s. It resonated with me, because I see universities favoring the growth of administrative and IT roles on campus, while the percentage of university budgets spent on library expenditures continues to drop off dramatically. I want to act ethically – I do believe that academic librarianship is an ethical and academically important profession. However, as a result of this belief, I also think we have a responsibility to convey our value to university presidents and provosts as convincingly as university IT and administrative offices. I hope we can both act ethically and be convincing, but there is clearly a balance that needs to be struck.

    We need discussion on this sooner rather than later, especially if we are going to get any action on #6.

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    Ethical Behavior this Week / Biblio|Ethno|Historio|Graphy by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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