Friday, June 3, 2011

Library Privacy in the Age of Information Sharing

Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society will be hosting Hyper-Public: A Symposium on Designing Privacy and Public Space in the Connected World later this month. The Symposium will host
Discussions of privacy often focus solely on the question of how to protect privacy. But a thriving public sphere, whether physical or virtual, is also essential to society. The balance of social mores and personal freedom in these spaces is what makes cooperation and collective action possible.
The strength of networks is firmly rooted in the ability to share information freely and easily, but that is also a great weakness - creating opportunities for abuse and oppression by the strong against the weak.

Berkman fellow David Weinberger has written an excellent manifesto - Rebooting Library Privacy in the Age of the Network - for encouraging sharing information in libraries while maintaining a default position of strict privacy. Weinberger's scheme for protecting patron privacy while prmoting the value of information sharing is summer up by his Three Laws of Library Privacy:

1. Users own their data.

Users decide who has access to the data about their own interactions with the library and what may be done with that data.

2. The library fiercely protects the decisions made according to Principle #1.

The library enforces the user’s decisions about privacy, and enables public and social access in accord with the user’s decision.

3. The library is transparent, except where it affects Principles #1 or #2.

The library is transparent about its principles, and about how it is handling users’ decisions about privacy, except when such transparency would betray information users have decided not to make public or social.

I look forward to seeing what other great discussions come out of this exciting Symposium.

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