Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Module 11 - Privacy Matters

I really liked this statement from the Bowers article, “One cannot exercise the right to read if the possible consequences include damage to one’s reputation, ostracism from the community or workplace, or criminal penalties” (377). It really summarizes the thoughts and ideas for the week’s readings and video. If someone is afraid of being criticized, ostracized or otherwise ridiculed, judged or considered a criminal, it really restricts their privacy and their freedom to do, read, or view as they please. Interestingly, as stated in the Bowers article, the word “privacy” itself is never mentioned in the Constitution (377). Certainly though, it must be one of the “inalienable rights” granted to each US citizen?

Another line from the Bowers article that struck me (but for different reasons) was the one about “zones of privacy” that “create areas or matters that should be beyond the reach of government and left to the autonomy of the individual.” (Bowers 378) This made me think of the very recent news story I heard about San Francisco, Happy Meals and government control. An ordinance was passed there requiring that a “healthier” option to be chosen in place of fries for the toy to be included in the Happy Meal. Apparently the city board passed the ordinance because it feels that this is a way to control childhood obesity. I see it as us falling one step closer to a communistic society. When does the government learn to back off and let individuals make their own choices concerning their children and their food consumption? But I digress; this is supposed to be a discussion about privacy, which, I suppose, leads me to the Patriot Act.

The YouTube video featuring the story about the librarians in Connecticut that fought the Patriot Act while under gag order was actually really interesting and enlightening. It was helpful to see and listen to an actual instance of the Patriot Act in action and the relative helplessness and feeling of isolation that the librarian (and then his trusted fellow board members) must have initially been feeling. This area of confidentiality and privacy requests, is, in theory, rather black and white, but is, in execution, rather grey and fuzzy. It’s hard to imagine being that librarian served with the request for private information and then trying to make sense of it. Wouldn’t it be scary to be that librarian served with such a request and not be able to talk to anyone about it (not even being certain whether you can seek legal counsel) and then be threatened with jail time if you didn’t comply with the request?? Yikes! Certainly you don’t want to be thought of as a threat to national security (as the speaker stated the librarians were in the video), but also you would want to divulge information about someone that might be an actual threat. But, of course, we as librarians know and understand that upholding the privacy of our patrons comes first.

1 comment:

  1. Erin, you're right to point out that there may be quite a personal conflict to contend with when one finds oneself in the position the CT librarians did. There's no reason to think, as you point out, that they might not have had public safety at heart, too. So how to reconcile that with what they felt was a duty to protect patron privacy? Which takes precedence? Did they experience self-doubt in their decision to resist the FBI?