Monday, November 15, 2010

The G-Men are Coming!

J. Edgar Hooverphoto © 2008 Cliff | more info (via: Wylio)
I've been doing my best this week to think about these issues from more than one side. It's very easy to think of the government and the FBI and FBI agents as a large dark sinister force out to steal our privacy. But this is an unfair characterisation. Those two FBI agents in Connecticut were likely enforcing a policy that they believe helps to fight terrorism and save lives. Certainly as a general concept this is something we can all get behind, the tools they used to go about it are what is in question. On a personal level, I am uncomfortable with people knowing things about me, but I also love data. Data is super useful, it lets librarians find information resources that can educate and entertainment. Data also lets law enforcement catch bad guys. I think the key here is to find a comfortable amount of data collection, and the conflict resolution of the courts seems like a fine way to do it. So while, at a personal level I imagine it's quite stressful for the librarians involved to have to deal with the threats of jail time and gag orders, on a higher level, finding the balance between privacy and useful data collection is still an important thing. It would be a mistake to think that our government and law enforcement should know nothing about our lives.

Switching gears slightly, I thought the Bowers article was pretty good. Although, it did start off by using a pet peeve of mine. That of any form of the sentence "The Oxford English Dictionary defines X as blah de blah." This sounds like something I would have written in 9th grade (and probably did many times). That annoyance aside, I thought she made some good points. I think the main crux of the article is the libraries are treated unequally in terms of data protection. I found this surprising. I fail to see a difference in protecting someone's video rentals but not in someone's video check-outs. I also enjoyed the point that not having data at all is one of the best ways to prevent it from being taken by the government. As Bowers points out this was stated back in 1988, so is a good policy regardless of the current political climate or the PATRIOT Act.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoying your continued use of the image search function, Daniel!