Since 9/11, the surveillance of individuals (both foreign and domestic born) has become a major factor in national security. After 13 years, it seems that we are no safer than before the 9/11 attacks, and the current surveillance tactics conducted by organizations like the National Security Agency (NSA) only cause indignation from the public towards the government. Do we really have to sacrifice our right to privacy and free expression for safety and national security ?
According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) “the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance has greatly expanded in the years since September 11th, 2001”. Recent disclosures have shown that the government, enabled by the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendment Act, has been tracking calls of innocent American citizens and spying on international calls, text messages, emails, and web data (aclu.org). It not just government agencies, however, who are monitoring communication patterns and technology usage, corporations have also been exploiting consumer’s information for their own gain. Figures from corporate America, such as Scott McNealy (CEO of Sun Microsystems) and Mark Zuckerberg (the founder of Facebook) have claimed that privacy doesn’t matter in the digital age, yet research shows that this is not the case. It is not surprising that people like McNealy and Zuckerberg would try to make these claims, since these are individuals who make their money off of gathering personal data, repackaging it, and selling it to advertisers (Magi, 2013). Contrary to what corporate figures claim, privacy does matter and it is a major concern for people, as evidenced by the fact that: there are laws or attorney general opinions protecting library records; at the federal level, there is talk about creating a consumer privacy bill of rights, over the past five years Facebook users have expressed outrage over the website’s features and policies that clearly violated privacy, and an increasing number of scholarly studies show that people are concerned about their privacy (Magi, 2013).
Such practices, which were mainly caused by the passage of the Patriot Act, are viewed as unsettling by librarians and information professionals, because the right to access information and the freedom of privacy is fundamental to their profession (Shaffer, 2014). In fact, Article IV of the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights “affirms the ethical imperative to provide unrestricted access to information and to guard against impediments to open inquiry” (www.ala.org/advocacy). Breaching users’ private or confidential data is viewed as an impediment to open inquiry, and if users recognize that than the freedom of open inquiry no longer exists (ala.org/advocacy).
American Civil Liberties Union (n.d.). Rein in the surveillance state. Retrieved from https://www.aclu.org/rein-surveillance-state.
American Library Association (n.d.). Privacy: An interpretation of the library bill of rights. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/librarybill/interpretations/privacy.
Macrina. A & Glaser. A. (2014, Sept. 13). Radical librarianship: How ninja librarians are ensuring patrons’ electronic privacy. Retrieved from http://boingboing.net/2014/09/13/radical-librarianship-how-nin.html.
Magi, T.J. (2013). A fresh look at privacy- Why does it matter, who cares, and what should librarians do about it? Indiana Libraries, 32(1), 37-41. Retrieved from http://scholarworks.uvm.edu/libfacpub/6/.
Shaffer, C. (2014). The patriot act a decade later: A literature review of librarian responses and strategies. Indiana Libraries, 33(1). Retrieved from http://http://journals.iupui.edu/index.php/IndianaLibraries/article/view/3485.