Some attention to library privacy

Is our society gradually forgetting the value of privacy, in libraries and elsewhere?

Michael Zimmer, who writes on media ecology, technology, and privacy, gives some attention to online privacy in libraries in a post from yesterday. He links to a blog entry from an anonymous blog called Chronicles of Dissent, comments, and links to some ALA docs on privacy.

The two main factors working against privacy are fear of crime or terrorism (or the threat of personal disruption and social disorder) and the power of information technology. Zimmer talks about both of these in his post.

What can we do to remind ourselves why privacy matters? Three things I suggest…

  1. Recall specific occasions in your life when you realized you needed to make some information about yourself more private, or when you realized that your power to control your own life was diminished by your lack of privacy.
  2. Imagine how life would be different if personal information about you and people you know were radically more available to businesses, government, and strangers, because of fear-based policies combined with a more technologically-mediated life.
  3. Think about the way that fear leads not only to more surveillance but to an expansion of what is considered suspicious, and how this problem answers the common objection, “If you aren’t doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.”

If you think of a future where growing fear leads to expanded suspicions and technological progress leads to intimate, networked surveillance of our lives, I think you will recall the importance of privacy, and think twice about consenting to let go of it little by little.

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