This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 30, 2013 1:46 PM. The previous post in this blog was Push coming to shove on trains in Clackistan. The next post in this blog is In Washington County, a change of plans. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

E-mail, Feeds, 'n' Stuff

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Will you let library keep archive of your checkouts?

The new Multnomah County Library website is up and operating, and we've been playing around on it a bit. One feature that's new is something called "Recently returned," which the site explains this way:

Your library does not keep records of your borrowing without your permission. However, when you enable the Recently Returned feature, the system will start building a list of all the titles you borrow. In addition to providing a useful way to track what you’ve recently borrowed, the Recently Returned page provides a convenient location for adding star ratings, comments and other information.

If the Recently Returned feature is not enabled, no records will be stored. You can turn on the Recently Returned feature in the registration process and start saving your titles immediately. After you have logged in, you can change this setting using the check box in My Settings > Privacy...

The content on your Recently Returned page is visible only to you....

Part of us is thinking, hey, who are they kidding? There's already a record of what you checked out, somewhere, if somebody in law enforcement wants the information badly enough. But another part of us says, no, that information's probably practically inaccessible, unless you opt to make it readily available, as through "Recently returned." And so "Recently returned" is going to make it easier for someone to snoop.

In any event, we don't need a list of what we've previously checked out from the library, and so we're not opting in. What about you?

Comments (19)

The old system has "My Reading History". I've used it since 2008 (I just checked). I've never really needed to look at it, but I found it interesting to see that I have checked out 140 books in the last four years.

I find that it's helpful to have that information, especially when you've got kids checking out books all the time. And then forgetting they have them.

I don't think I worry too much about my borrowing history, and it has an opt-out. Of course, the bigger issue, you're right, is that there IS a record of it.

I think this is a convenience for most people. I've often gone back to my Netflix rental history. If that wasn't there, I swear I'd watch the same stuff over and over. (Did I see that movie, I can't remember...)

Huh. JohnH, I never opted into that one, either. "My Reading History" is blank, thank goodness.

I'd opt in to that. I really don't feel the need for much privacy in what I check out. And I could see there being some real benefits that the library could offer. Imagine this: You log into facebook, and see

"Your friends Jack Bogdanski, Sam Adams, and Ron Wyden have read 'The Art of Power'. It is available for check-out now at your local branch."

Maybe slightly creepy, but I'd be onboard with it!

As long as they don't have an icon next to all the foreign films I checked out that have hot love scenes in them...

Anyway, the NSA has hooks into all that stuff already.

Speaking from experience, some of us use the checkout record to determine whether we have read a book or not. Mystery series from factory output authors are a particular problem, because people tend to remember the tale but not the title. You young guys may not need it, but it is no fun to finally get settled by the fire, scotch in hand, and then realize the book you brought home was the one you read last year. It's worse when we don't notice until chapter 4 or so....
When the Cannon Beach library went to computers, patrons demanded we keep the now pointless signout cards in the back just to answer the question "Have I read this one?"

I can keep my own list, thank you.
But as Tim mentioned, it may not matter anyway.

You can thank John Ashford for the 'opt out' option....Libraries went through the whole process of not keeping such past borrowings in order to protect their users from unreasonable search and seizure by Homeland Security agents...Ashcroft was indeed threatening to do exactly that.

I've always wondered what the feds are looking for when they examine library records. Are there a lot of tutorials in the library on how to be a terrorist or are the cops interested in a person's political leanings?

Am I in some danger from federal prosecution because I read, say, Howard Zinn or Chris Hedges?

Maybe I should check out some Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly to balance things out.

Tim is incorrect. The NSA is not 'hooked into' your library information. Quite the opposite is true. Unless you opt-in and request that your data be retained libraries routinely destroy all personally identifiable patron records in compliance with the ALA Code of Ethics.

"The ethical responsibilities of librarians, as well as statutes in most states and the District of Columbia, protect the privacy of library users. Confidentiality extends to
'information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted' (ALA Code of Ethics), and includes, but is not limited to, database search records, reference interviews, circulation records, interlibrary loan records and other personally identifiable uses of library materials, facilities, or services."

Patron privacy and privacy policies became a huge issue for libraries after the passage of the Patriot Act. As I understood it at the time (I was in grad school then), law enforcement agencies began to request patron data, without a warrant, from libraries. Libraries were required to turn over the information by the Act and were constrained from disclosing that they had done so. Librarians as a group have strong feelings about free access to information and an individual's right to privacy. To avoid having to compromise their patron's privacy libraries chose not to retain any of the types of records mentioned above.

k2, those are nice sentiments. I assume that the NSA can intercept the library traffic even if it's SSL encoded and read it if they want to.

The library would have no idea that this was happening and I don't know how they would stop it.

What's scary about this country over the past 15-20 years is that not only could such things be done now without a warrant but that people in the know would be risking jail if they disclosed it was happening.

Libraries, especially our local system, have historically, strenuously fought any attempts to access borrowing and other records.

I think that if you have a choice about maintaining a record and have to consciously activate this option, it's not a problem. A lot of people like to keep track of what they read during a given year, either informally or because they are involved in a competition (yep, we had one at work) or part of a reading group or program.

Don't want the library to officially archive your reading history? Don't sign up.

Unless your personal information is given in connection with a gun background check, you can be fairly sure it is being collected and kept.

Orwell...1984 ! ! !

Don't check it out, or the thought police will snare you via the giant data center being built in Utah. Heard it on the Alex Jones show ! ! !



Allan is correct. Just check out books like you buy your handguns, from the guy on the street corner, no questions asked. Just be sure you are wearing your tin-foil, gamma-ray-deflecting hat to disperse any nearby surveillance from airborne drones scanning for unauthorized trade activity down below.

As a wise guy once said: "You have zero privacy anyway." "Get over it!"

This is just so much kabuki. If they don't "keep records of your borrowing without your permission," how on earth do they know who checked out what book and when it's due? How do they levy fines? How do they even issue library cards in the first place? Basically what you said in your last paragraph.

I'd go so far as to say that if they really aren't keeping records of people's borrowing --whether they give permission or not-- heads should roll.

The majority of what the Multnomah County Library does can be described as a bureaucracy in search of a mission.

Feature film rentals, music downloads, porn surfing for the homeless (mostly the downtown branch), and baby sitting.

Like any bureaucracy, their "work" expands to the funds available for it. With the advances in internet archives, libraries have gone WAY beyond book lending. Too far, in my opinion.

There's a scene somewhere in the movie Brazil where Robert DeNiro is shown in the underbelly of a futuristic, bureaucratic state that collects so much data that it can't deal with it all. Behind the scenes mere mortals try to keep the system going, but the paperwork (it was 1985) was overwhelming and mistakes were common. Privacy is pretty much dead. What I worry about is how the information "they" have will be used. Who will be classified mentally ill? Who will be deserving and who will be relegated to a lower rung in society? All this information - your kids' school test scores, your medical records, your fingerprints and more are already in the system. Who cares that I checked out a book on brain development or garden structures? It's just more junk for their system to choke on.

Clicky Web Analytics