New Privacy Guidelines Encourage Libraries and Vendors to Work Together to Protect Reader Privacy

Posted by on August 4, 2015 in Privacy and New Technologies, Privacy vs. Library 2.0, Protecting Privacy, reader privacy | 0 comments

By Michael Robinson
Chair, IFC Privacy Subcommittee
Head of Systems at the Consortium Library
University of Alaska – Anchorage

Libraries have a tradition of protecting the privacy of readers as the cornerstone of intellectual freedom. We recognize that freedom of thought and expression begins with freedom of inquiry, the ability to read and explore ideas without the chilling effect of government surveillance or societal disapproval. We clearly saw the Patriot Act as a threat to library users’ privacy and have earned a reputation for our efforts to reform it. However, that reputation may be in danger. A gap has grown between our tradition of protecting privacy and common practices that libraries have developed as they strive to deliver digital content, embrace the modern Web, and provide personalized services to library users. The October 2014 revelations disclosing what Adobe’s Digital Editions collects about users and their reading habits brought this gap into center stage.

ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC) has been concerned about online privacy for years. They worked with the Office of Intellectual Freedom to establish the annual Choose Privacy Week campaign in 2010 and recently published an updated version of the Privacy Toolkit, an extensive resource that covers the myriad of threats to privacy in a modern library. One of the goals of the IFC Privacy Subcommittee is to use the toolkit as a resource to produce a series of more concise and accessible guidelines focused on specific areas of concern about library users’ privacy.

Given the Adobe revelations, we decided to start by developing privacy guidelines for ebook lending and digital content vendors. During the process of developing the document, the Privacy Subcommittee shared it with a range of individuals and groups for review and comments. This included ALA’s Digital Content Working Group (DCWG), the LITA Patron Privacy Technologies Interest Group, and the group developing the NISO Consensus Framework to Support Patron Privacy in Digital Library and Information Systems. Online privacy is a large issue that touches on many areas of library service, and it is important that the different groups in ALA work together to develop a common set of principles and best practices that protect reader privacy. By the end of ALA’s 2015 Annual Meeting in San Francisco, the Intellectual Freedom Committee and the Digital Content Working Group both endorsed the document, entitled “Library Privacy Guidelines for E-book Lending and Digital Content Vendors.

Library Privacy Guidelines for E-book Lending and Digital Content” are intended to start a conversation within the library community and with vendors and content providers. We expect that the guidelines will need to be revised as we receive more feedback. On the whole, the guidelines represent our attempt to balance the need to protect reader privacy with the needs of libraries to collect user data and provide personalized services, while respecting and protecting the individual’s right to make their own informed decisions in regards to the privacy of their data, particularly in regard to how much privacy they are willing to trade for convenience or added benefits. That’s an ambitious goal, but if libraries and vendors can work together to develop practices based on these guidelines, it can serve as a model for how it can be done. It’s time for librarians to take up this task and to live up to our reputation as privacy defenders.

Library Privacy Guidelines for E-book Lending and Digital Content Vendors

Protecting user privacy and confidentiality has long been an integral part of the intellectual freedom mission of libraries. The right to free inquiry as assured by the First Amendment depends upon the ability to read and access information free from scrutiny by the government or other third parties. In their provision of services to library users, librarians have an ethical obligation, expressed in the ALA Code of Ethics, to preserve users’ right to privacy and to prevent any unauthorized use of patron data (see note below). Librarians and libraries may also have a legal obligation to protect library users’ data from unauthorized disclosure.

Libraries enter into licenses or agreements with commercial vendors in order to provide library users access to digital information, including e-books, journals, and databases. Access to these resources is most often provided via networks and the internet. In the course of providing these services, most e-book and digital content vendors collect and use library patron data for a variety of reasons, including digital rights management, consumer analytics, and user personalization. Libraries and vendors must work together to ensure that the contracts and licenses governing the provision and use of digital information reflect library ethics, policies, and legal obligations concerning user privacy and confidentiality.

These guidelines are issued to provide vendors with information about appropriate data management and security practices in respect to library patrons’ personally identifiable information and data about their use of digital content.

Agreements, Ownership of User Data, and Legal Requirements
Agreements between libraries and vendors should address appropriate restrictions on the use, aggregation, retention, and dissemination of patron data, particularly information about minors. Agreements between libraries and vendors should also specify that libraries retain ownership of all data and that the vendor agrees to observe the library’s privacy policies and data retention and security policies.

Vendors are strongly encouraged to implement the principles of privacy by design, i.e. products and services should have privacy concerns “built in, not bolted on.” In addition, agreements between libraries and vendors should reflect and incorporate restrictions on the potential dissemination and use of library patrons’ records and data imposed by local, state, and federal law.

Clear Privacy Policies
Library users should be notified about vendor privacy policies when accessing a product or service. The privacy policies should be made easily available and understandable to users. Safeguarding user privacy requires that individuals know what information is gathered about them, how long it is stored, who has access to it and under what conditions, and how it is used. There should be a way to actively notify ongoing users of any changes to the vendor’s privacy policies.

User Consent
The vendor should give users options as to how much personal information is collected from them and how it may be used. Users should have choices about whether or not to opt-in to features and services that require the collection of personal information. Users should also have the ability to opt-out and have their personal information erased if they later change their minds.

Access to Personal Data
Users should have the right to access their own personal information and contest its accuracy. Verifying accuracy helps ensure that vendor services that rely on personal user information can function properly. Guidance on how the user can access their personal data should be clear and easy to find. Patrons should also have the ability to download their personal data into an open file format such as CSV for their own use.

Access to personal information should be restricted to the user and conform to the applicable state laws addressing the confidentiality of library records as well as other applicable local, state, and federal law.

Data Integrity and Security
Whenever patron data is collected, the vendor must take reasonable steps to ensure integrity and security, including compliance with applicable statutory requirements.

Security: Security involves both managerial and technical measures to protect against loss and the unauthorized access, destruction, use, or disclosure of data. Security measures should be integrated into the design, implementation, and day-to-day practices of the vendor’s entire operating environment as part of its continuing commitment to risk management. The vendor should seek compliance with published cybersecurity standards from organizations such as National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Encryption: The use of data encryption helps enhance privacy protection. All online transactions between client applications (web browsers, mobile apps, etc.) and server applications should be encrypted. In addition, any user data housed by the vendor off site (cloud-based infrastructure, tape backups, etc.) should use encrypted storage.

Anonymization: Data used for customer analytics and other types of analysis should be anonymized by removing or encrypting personally identifiable information. While data anonymization is a good practice, it is not foolproof (re-identification analysis has been used to identify individuals from anonymized data sets); therefore access should still be restricted.

Retention: User data should not be retained in perpetuity. The vendor should establish policies for how long to retain different types of data and methods for securely destroying data that is no longer needed. For example, accounts that are expired or inactive for a certain amount of time should be purged. Retention policies should also cover archival copies and backups.

Data Sharing: User data should not be shared with third-party vendors and other business associates without user consent. Most state statutes on the confidentiality of library records do not permit release of library patrons’ personally identifiable information or data about their use of library resources and services without user consent or a court order. In addition, ALA policy forbids sharing of library patron information with third parties absent a court order.

Government Requests: The vendor should develop and implement procedures for dealing with government and law enforcement requests for library patrons’ personally identifiable information and use data. The vendor should consider a government or law enforcement request only if it is issued by a court of competent jurisdiction that shows good cause and is in proper form. The vendor should inform and consult with the library when it believes is obligated to release library patrons’ information unless prevented from doing so by the operation of law. The vendor should also inform users through its privacy policies about the legal conditions under which it might be required to release personally identifiable information.

Company Sale, Merger, or Bankruptcy: In the event that the vendor is sold to another company, merges with another company, or is dissolved through bankruptcy, all personally identifiable information should be securely destroyed, or libraries and their end users must be notified and given the opportunity to request that their data be securely destroyed.

User Devices
Privacy protections for library patrons’ personally identifiable information and use data should extend to the user’s device, including the web browser or any applications provided by the vendor. All communications between the user’s device and the vendor’s services should be encrypted. If the vendor wishes to employ personalization technology such as persistent cookies on its website or allows third-party web tracking, it should inform the user and give them the chance to opt-in before initiating these features for the user. If a vendor-provided application stores personally identifiable information or use data on the user’s device, it should be encrypted. The user should be able to remove a vendor-provided application and delete any data stored on the device.
Audit and Notification
Vendors should establish and maintain effective mechanisms to enforce their privacy policies. They should conduct regular privacy audits to ensure that all operations and services comply with these policies. The results of these audits should be made available upon request to libraries that are customers or potential customers. A vendor that suffers a breach in its privacy policies through inadvertent dissemination or data theft must notify the effected libraries and users about this urgent matter as soon as the vendor is aware of the data breach.

Note: Patron data” or “user data” is any data or record that identifies the library patron or the patron’s use of library information systems and resources.

Approved by the Intellectual Freedom Committee 6/29/2015

The guidelines are now available online on the ALA website.  The IFC Privacy Subcommittee encourages anyone with comments or questions to send correspondence to its ALA staff liaison, Deborah Caldwell-Stone, at

Urgent: Help Rebury “Zombie” Cybersecurity Bill

Posted by on July 28, 2015 in cybersecurity, government surveillance, Privacy and Security, surveillance | 0 comments

by Adam Eisgrau, ALA Washington Office
Crossposted from District Dispatch

CISA FB graphicIt’s back to the “barricades” for librarians and our many civil liberties coalition allies. Just over a year ago, District Dispatch sounded the alarm about the return of privacy-hostile “cybersecurity” or“information sharing” legislation. Again dubbed a “zombie” for its ability to rise from the legislative dead, the current version of the bill (S. 754) goes by the innocuous name of the “Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act” . . . but “CISA” is anything but. As detailed below, not only won’t it be effective as advertised in thwarting cyber-attacks, but it de facto grants broad new mass data collection powers to many federal, as well as state and even local, government agencies!

CISA was approved in a secret session last March by the Senate Intelligence Committee. In April, ALA and more than 50 other organizations, leading cybersecurity experts and academics called on Congress to fix its many flaws in a detailed letter. Since then, S. 754 hasn’t had a single public hearing in this Congress. Nonethe­less, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is pushing for a vote on S. 754 by the full Senate right now, before the Senate breaks for its summer recess in a matter of days. Sadly, unless we can stop it, this dangerously and heavily flawed bill looks to be headed for passage even if not amended at all.

Touted by its supporters as a means of preventing future large-scale data breaches like the massive one just suffered by the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management, leading security experts argue that CISA actually won’t do much, if anything, to prevent such incursions . . . and many worry that it could make things worse. As detailed by our compatriots at New America’s Open Technology Institute and the Center for Democracy and Technology, what it will do is create incentives for private companies and the government to widely share huge amounts of Americans’ personally identifiable information that will itself then be vulnerable to sophisticated hacking attacks. In the process, the bill also creates massive exemptions from liability for private companies under every major consumer privacy protection law now on the books.

Your collected personal information would be shared instantly under the bill among many federal agencies including the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Department of Defense, NSA and the Department of Justice. Worse yet, it also would be shared with garden variety law enforcement entities at every level of government. None of them would be required to adequately restrict how long they can retain that personal information, or limit what kinds of non-cyber offenses the information acquired could be used to prosecute. If enacted, that would be a sweeping “end run” on the Fourth Amendment and, in effect, make CISA a broad new surveillance bill.

CISA also allows both the government and private companies to take rapid unilateral “counter­measures” to retaliate against perceived threats, which may disable or disrupt many computer networks, including for example a library system’s or municipal government’s, believed to be the source of a cyber-attack.

With all of its defects and dangers, it’s no wonder that CISA’s been labelled a “zombie!” Now, it’s time for librarians to rise again, too . . . to the challenge of once more stopping CISA in its tracks. This time around, in addition to just calling on the President to threaten to veto CISA as he has in the past, ALA has partnered with more than a dozen other national groups to do it in a way so old it’s novel again: sending Senate offices thousands . . . of faxes.

Courtesy of our friends at, you can join this retro campaign to protect the future of your privacy by delivering a brief, pre-written message online with just a single mouse click at now! (If you prefer, you’ll also have the option of writing your own message.)

Together we can stop CISA one more time, but votes could happen anytime now. Please act today!

 Additional Information and Resources

American Civil Liberties Union

Center for Democracy and Technology

New America’s Open Technology Institute

Privacy @ ALA Annual 2015 in San Francisco

Posted by on June 18, 2015 in data mining, FISA / PATRIOT Act, government surveillance, libraries, Privacy and Security, Privacy vs. Library 2.0, Programming, reader privacy, Youth and Privacy | 0 comments

Privacy is on the agenda at the 2015 ALA Annual Meeting in San Francisco June 26 – June 30, 2015.

Some highlights:

  • RUSA President’s Program speaker danah boyd will discuss her research on youth culture, the “big data” phenomenon, and the role of libraries and librarians in a data-soaked world on Saturday, June 27, at 4:00 p.m. in the Moscone Convention Center West,  Room 3014-16.
  • Privacy law scholar Neil Richards and Electronic Frontier Foundation Senior Counsel David Greene discuss “Principles & Politics: Intellectual Privacy and Surveillance in the Digital Age” on Monday, June 29 at 10:30 a.m. in the Moscone Convention Center South, Room 236-238.   Richards will sign copies of his new book, Intellectual Privacy: Rethinking Civil Liberties in the Digital Age, following the program.
  • Journalist Glenn Greenwald will talk via Skype about the state of surveillance in the United States, the failure of the mainstream media to investigate government survellance and the need to safeguard whistleblowers on Sunday, June 28 at 1:00 p.m. in Moscone Convention Center West, Room 2012.
  • The IFC Privacy Subcommittee will discuss proposed privacy guidelines for E-book and digital content vendors at its meeting on Sunday, June 29 at 8:30 a.m. in Moscone Convention Center South, Room 220, while Todd Carpenter of NISO will talk about the NISO project, “Building A Consensus Framework for Patron Privacy in Library and Information Systems” immediately following the IFC Privacy Subcommittee meeting at 10:30 a.m. in the Moscone Convention Center West, Room 3012.
  • Blake Carver from LYRASIS and Alison Macrina from the Library Freedom Project will discuss and teach strategies for securing your data and internet use from digital surveillance on Saturday, June 27 at 4:30 p.m. in Moscone Convention Center North, Room 120.

The list below collects all the programs, meetings, and events tagged as “privacy,” “surveillance,” “data” and “data security.”


8:30am – 10:00am

Washington Office Update Session – Frenetic, Fraught and Front Page:
An Up-to-the-Second Update from the Front Lines of Libraries’ Fight in Washington
Moscone Convention Center 2001 (W)

With millions in federal library funding, overhauls of the nation’s copyright and surveillance laws, mission-critical legislation to help save school libraries, the fate of net neutrality, and revisions to the Freedom of Information Act all hot in the current Congress only one thing is certain. Material for this Annual’s Washington Office Update is guaranteed to come straight from the day’s headlines. Get the inside scoop, and tips on how you can help fight for what libraries need and believe, at this perennially popular program (speakers to be determined). Don’t miss it! (Will include discussion of the USA FREEDOM Act.)

10:30am – 11:30am

All the Data: Privacy, Service Quality, and Analytics
Moscone Convention Center 2020 (W)

ACRL’s The Value of Academic Libraries report emphasized the need for libraries to systematically collect user data in planning and decisionmaking activities. Indeed, many libraries are seeking ways to use such data as part of institutional efforts to better understand and measure library impact and educational outcomes. These efforts have raised many questions about user privacy, anonymity, policy, library values, and service development. This program will prepare librarians to actively engage with these issues.  Speakers: Andrew Asher, Assessment Librarian, Indiana University Bloomington;  Lisa Hinchliffe, Coordinator for Information Literacy Services and Instruction, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  Sponsored by ACRL.

Collect Building Census Without Effort
Moscone Convention Center 3002 (W)
Through careful analysis of wireless (“wifi”) controller logs it is possible to understand a great deal about patron locations and visit times in a Library building(s). The exact types and numbers of wireless devices carried can be known, as well as the nature of their use. The data are available on demand, do not harm patron privacy, and can replace manual headcounts.  Sponsored by LITA.

Don’t Freak Out: Fracking the Customer Data Goldmine
Moscone Convention Center 2002 (W)

Borrower privacy is a “third rail” for most librarians. Is it time for a change? Customers have come to expect highly-personalized service based on past use; they get recommendations now for everything from shoes to music. Is it time for libraries to leverage their “big data” to provide personalized service? How can we do this without compromising our principles? In this panel discussion, we will recap privacy concerns; outline opportunities for customizing service; and share concrete examples from libraries that have repurposed borrower data to provide value-added services.   Moderator: Stephanie Chase, Director, Hillsboro (Ore.) Public Library; Speakers:  Brian Auger, County Library Administrator, Somerset County (N.J.) Library System;  John Blyberg, Assistant Director – Innovation and UX, Darien (Conn.) Library;  Mark Lewis, Product & Innovations Practice Lead, Slalom Consulting; Toby Greenwalt, Director of Digital Strategy and Technology Integration, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.  Sponsored by PLA.

Rethinking Patron Engagement: Making Data-Driven Decisions
Moscone Convention Center 3003 (W)

Public libraries are looking past circulation statistics and program counts to gather richer, more holistic information about current (and potential) users. In this session, learn how Brooklyn Public Library’s “Power User” program, Seattle Public Library’s “Millennial Factor Project,” and Chicago Public Library’s “Outcome Based Measurements” initiative are engaging patrons more intimately by translating data into targeted programs and services.  Speakers: Amy Mikel, Outreach Librarian, Brooklyn Public Library; Daniel Tilton, Teen/Adult Services Librarian, Seattle Public Library; Diana Plunkett, Manager, Strategic Initiatives, Brooklyn Public Library; Michelle Frisque, Chief of Technology, Content and Innovation, Chicago Public Library; Tess Mayer, Director of Public Services, Mobile Services, King County (Wash.) Library System.   Sponsored by PLA.

1:00pm – 2:30pm

LITA Patron and Privacy Technologies Interest Group
Hilton San Francisco Union Square, Continental 7

Business Meeting of the LITA Patron and Privacy Technologies Interest Group

What Every Director Needs to Know About Credit Cards & Patron Privacy
Moscone Convention Center 121 (N)

The issue of privacy and security is not just an issue facing libraries today but is a worldwide problem as seen in the recent security breaches with companies like Target and Home Depot. Clearly companies like these thought they were protected given the sophistication and security resources available to them, however this turned out to be incorrect. In reality the issues of “Privacy and Security” is a relatively new phenomenon beginning with identity theft and credit card fraud. And, now as libraries begin to move towards these new frontiers you must understand your role for protecting your patrons’ private data and credit card numbers. So what are the issues you need to be aware of? Let us show you where to start: 1. What is the PCI-Data Security Standard? 2. Who are the PCI Stakeholders? Merchants…libraries like you! 3. The 1, 2, 3 Best PCI Practices. 2015 does brings with it new and expanded requirements under PCI-DSS Version 3.0, learn about these changes.  Speakers: Daniel Curtin and Diane Weinberger.  Sponsored by the Exhibits Round Table.

4:00pm – 5:30pm

RUSA President’s Program
It’s Complicated: Navigating the dynamic landscapes of digital literacy, collapsing contexts, and big data
Moscone Convention Center 3014-3016 (W)

We have more access to more information than ever before, while others have more access to data about us than ever before. This ecosystem of “big data” introduces a myriad of challenges as the public grapples with privacy, digital literacy, the politics of algorithms, and collapsing contexts across social media. Librarians, long the patron saint of information, have a crucial role to play in helping guide the conversation. In this talk, danah boyd will weave together her research on youth culture with her analysis of the “big data” phenomenon to discuss the role of libraries and librarians in a data-soaked world. Speaker: danah boyd, founder, Data & Society.

4:30pm – 5:30pm

Digital Privacy and Security: Keeping You And Your Library Safe and Secure In A Post-Snowden World
Moscone Convention Center 120 (N)

Join Blake Carver from LYRASIS and Alison Macrina from the Library Freedom Project to learn strategies for security from digital surveillance. We’ll teach tools that keep data safe inside the library and out — securing your network, website, and PCs, and tools you can teach to patrons in computer classes. We’ll tackle security myths, passwords, tracking, malware, and more, covering a range of tools from basic to advanced, making this session ideal for any library staff. Sponsored by the Exhibits Round Table.


8:30am – 10:00am

Intellectual Freedom Committee Privacy Subcommittee
Moscone Convention Center 220 (S)

Business meeting for the Intellectual Freedom Privacy Subcommittee.  The subcommittee will be discussing its final draft of the “Library Privacy Guidelines for E-book Lending and Digital Content Vendors” in preparation for recommending its adoption as as an official document of the Intellectual Freedom Committee.   The subcommittee invites and welcomes comments and suggestions concerning the proposed guidelines prior to their adoption. The document can be viewed on ALA Connect at  and comments can be left on that page.

10:30am – 11:30am

Building A Consensus Framework for Patron Privacy in Library and Information Systems             
Moscone Convention Center 3012 (W)

In the Spring, NISO announced the launch of a project to develop a consensus framework for privacy of patron data in library, publisher and vendor systems. With support via a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, NISO is gathering input from stakeholders and leaders within the information systems community to craft a set of principles for how suppliers of end-user systems for content or services should address concerns around privacy. In the month of May 2015, NISO will have convened a series of four virtual conferences in preparation for an invitational meeting following the ALA conference. This session will describe the project, the four component discussion themes and will discuss NISO’s plans for the resulting framework. During the session, there will be an opportunity for the community to provide comment and input on the developing framework themes. A final report for the project and potential next steps will be made available this Fall.  Speaker: Todd Carpenter.

1:00pm – 2:00pm

No Place to Hide: Whistleblowers Expose the Surveillance State
Moscone Convention Center 2012 (W)

Glenn Greenwald will participate by Skype from his home in Rio de Janeiro. His recent book explains the importance of Edward Snowden’s dramatic revelations on how the U.S. government is collecting massive amounts of material about everything we do. He will talk about the failure of the mainstream media to actively investigate what the U.S. government is doing, and the need therefore to vigorously support whistleblowers. Sponsored by SRRT.


10:30am – 11:30am

Principles & Politics: Intellectual Privacy and Surveillance in the Digital Age
Moscone Convention Center 236-238 (S)

Librarians defend privacy on the grounds that one’s intellectual activity should be free from surveillance. Now legal scholars and advocates are now championing the notion that in a free society, anyone should be able to read, learn, and debate without being monitored and recorded. Professor Neil Richards will explain the importance of ‘intellectual privacy,’ the right to be protected from surveillance or interference when we are engaged in reading or thinking, and how pervasive online tracking and data collection has made protection of intellectual privacy an imperative.  EFF senior attorney David Greene will review the federal government’s suspicionless surveillance programs, EFF’s First Amendment lawsuits challenging these programs, and what opportunities exist for grass roots advocacy. We’ll close with a lively discussion about what librarians can do and are doing to protect reader privacy and end unjustified surveillance.  Speakers: Neil Richards Washington UniversitySchool of Law;  David Greene, Senior Staff Attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Following the program, Professor Richards will be signing copies of his new book, Intellectual Privacy: Rethinking Civil Liberties in the Digital Age (Oxford Press 2015).

1:30pm – 3:30pm

Now Showing @ ALA: CitizenFour
Moscone Convention Center 123 (N)

CITIZENFOUR is a real life thriller, unfolding by the minute, giving audiences unprecedented access to filmmaker Laura Poitras and journalist Glenn Greenwald’s encounters with Edward Snowden in Hong Kong, as he hands over classified documents providing evidence of mass indiscriminate and illegal invasions of privacy by the National Security Agency (NSA). Poitras had already been working on a film about surveillance for two years when Snowden contacted her, using the name “CITIZENFOUR,” in January 2013. He reached out to her because he knew she had long been a target of government surveillance, stopped at airports numerous times, and had refused to be intimidated. When Snowden revealed he was a high-level analyst driven to expose the massive surveillance of Americans by the NSA, Poitras persuaded him to let her film.  Runtime: 114 minutes  Preview: