Seventy-five years after the American Libraries Association pledged to protect patron privacy, the Data Privacy Project will help libraries better prepare individuals and communities for the challenges of always-on, digitally networked, and easily surveilled lifestyles.
Research conducted by New America’s Open Technology Institute and done in part with collaboration from Brooklyn Public Library found that frontline library staff required training and ongoing support to better respond to patron needs regarding digital privacy or data profiling issues. Our assumptions are that with additional training and easy step- by-step resource guides, ready access to security experts, and straightforward training materials, that libraries will be more likely to live up to their values around protecting patron privacy. We also believe that there is an active group of tech activists and experts who will engage with frontline librarians to better support the general public’s concerns and needs around online privacy.
As the Internet and its usage continue to influence and shape our lives, the issues of digital privacy and data profiling have risen to the forefront, informing both policymaking and public conversation. The extent of government surveillance programs, differential treatment of online consumers, and the need for protection of sensitive personal data have ramped up the urgency of addressing these matters.
Even among public libraries, which play a critical role in providing public access to the Internet, and which historically have defended a patron’s right to privacy, digital privacy does not feature prominently in the discussion, planning, and programming related to activities serving to bridge the ongoing digital divide. It is becoming more and more evident that libraries cannot afford to overlook digital privacy or data profiling when promoting digital inclusion.
This is why a team of tech experts, researchers, community activists, and librarians all passionate about the impact of technological advances on everyone has joined forces to increase privacy literacy amongst library staff and to prototype the idea that we can work with privacy technologists to build simple tools and guides and create a network of support for libraries across the country.
The Data Privacy Project covers two initiatives. The Privacy Literacy Training project, funded by the Institute of Museum & Library Services, teaches NYC librarians how information travels and is shared online, common risks encountered online by users and the importance of digital privacy and literacy. The other is focused on the idea of working with privacy technologists to co-create useful tools and a support network in order for libraries to provide more secure digital services. Network Building & Tools is a Knight Prototype Fund winner and is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.