Friday, November 19, 2010

(late) module xi social justice, privacy and the connecticut four

Sorry for the late posting. I've been really ill.

Module xi

Britz’s article has a legitimate issue in identifying low ethical standards in the global information community and how, in the author’s view, we should apply social justice these wrongs in the international information society. It brought to my attention the many ways that the flow of information is impeded, especially to those in under developing countries. On page 1178, Britz gives examples of violations of participate (social) justice:

§ Restriction of the freedom of expression.

§ Violation of a person’s right to privacy.

§ Unfair intellectual property regimes.

§ Creation of information monopolies.

§ Economic policies that do not allow affordable access to essential information.

Despite the article’s thorough research, I couldn’t help myself from thinking that this is great in theory, but I am apprehensive about its application in the real world. Especially, if we are talking about Third World countries, who have always been at the receiving end of tyrannical politicians and regimes, as well as their access to education whether it be proper primary schools, the opportunity for university, or learning better ways of water irrigation, agriculture, etc. Access to information is just more of the same for populations that have always gotten the short end of the stick. It doesn’t mean that I think we should not discuss this issue, or that it isn’t important. It is. I just don’t feel that many of those who have the power to do something put this issue at the top of their list.

One sentence on page 1173 did stick out for me: “Essential information is that information that people need to survive and develop.” In some ways, that statement can be applied as a moral guideline for many of the examples of violation of justice Britz describes. If we are committed to making essential information available to everyone across the globe, they will, hopefully, be empowered. But it might be awhile before this begins to gain any real ground. For those to explore the potential of essential information, they must first have the ability to know about the information, comprehend that information, and have the technical tools, skills and infrastructure to receive and process that information.

As for the Bowers article, it is amazing to realize that there is no law in the U.S. Constitution protecting our privacy, and that no law exists to protect the records of library patrons in this country. HEPA protects medical patients, and the government protects your video rentals, but no one protects libraries other than the committed librarians and library staff that uphold the highest standards of privacy and protection.

I’ve read about the Connecticut Four before and was truly blown away, both by the government’s actions and by the willingness of the librarians to stand up to the Patriot Act privacy, regardless of the consequences. They sued the government, and they won. I can only hope that if I ever find myself in a similar situation, that I will have the courage to act as they did, and the support to back me up.

There is a great chapter on the Connecticut Four in a really great book called, This book is overdue: How librarians and cybrarians can save us all, by Marilyn Johnson. I hope, as describes in this book, that wherever I am working, my library will be strong enough to proudly display the sign “The government has not been here today” each time federal agents come into the library.

Libraries need a policy that outlines the steps to take if the government demands patron information. Additionally, librarians need to know what they can expect in terms of support. Basically, will a library cave to a NSL or will it fight it? Will they pay for your lawyer, or demand you acquiesce so the situation comes and goes without a peep?

Not get too much off the subject, but privacy is a novel term in some ways. In LIS 644, we covered how Google and Facebook, among many others are tied into our preferences, our purchases, our daily lives. Of course, the government invading our privacy is much more serious, but millions of us post online in blogs, social networking sites, web sites, perhaps not realizing that information can be linked to us decades later. In a general way, we actually give up our privacy to some degree.

I am prepared to fight as a librarian to keep the records and information tied to my patrons through the library safe and private, for no other eyes than their own. However, I do believe that the security of our great nation and the threats against it are serious issues with dire consequences. I also believe that going through library records to look for threats against our country will not turn up much, if any, tangible proof against an alleged terrorist. Other evidence such as affiliations with known dissidents, uncovering actual bomb-making devices and paraphernalia in a place of residence, or interactions and conversations about plans for a criminal act certainly lend more weight than a library book on explosives in the courtroom.


  1. Dear Diana,
    I'm sorry to hear you've been ill. Hope you're on the mend now! I think we will all benefit from the end-of-the-semester break!!

  2. Diana, I'm glad you brought up the interesting fact that we are all concerned about privacy while we are busy posting on blogs and using the internet where everything about us is being stored and tracked. I know I have not done much to "hide" myself (if that is even possible), but I admit that I do not always post my most honest thoughts because I'm concerned about any repercussions. (A lot of this is because I do now work for a rather big company.)

  3. Remember that we always have the option of our Learn@UW to take things in a different direction. Don't feel confined to here!