The first week in May (i.e. this week) is Choose Privacy Week! This year’s display encourages people to think about why library privacy is important.
Journalist Glenn Greenwald gave a TED Talk in 2014 called “Why Privacy Matters” (read the transcript), and why the “nothing to hide” argument – that people who aren’t doing anything wrong have nothing to hide – is disingenuous. Greenwald argues against mass surveillance because being observed changes people’s behavior, making them more conformist and compliant. He points out that there are plenty of things you might discuss with a doctor, therapist, family member, or close friend that aren’t “wrong” or “bad” but that you would naturally prefer not to share with the world.
This certainly applies to one’s library checkout history as well. Your reading history might reveal plenty of personal details, such as: whether you’re pregnant (or trying to become so), if you’re looking into a job or career change or a move, whether you or a family member has a medical condition, and many other matters you may prefer to keep private. That’s why the library does not save a record of your checkout history.
Note: You can choose to save a record of your checkout history that only you can see, if you want to keep track of what you’ve borrowed. This is an opt-in feature that you must enable if you want to use it.
“We protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted.”
-American Library Association Code of Ethics