Library E-Books’ Privacy Rights

Internet privacy is almost non-existent: Google keeps tabs on your browsing history and sneaks in ads related to what you’ve been searching, Amazon keeps a permanent history of your orders, and the paranoia of digital surveillance is not so baseless after all. It should come as no surprise that any e-books you purchase are recorded by the e-reader companies that you buy from, but what about e-books you check out from your library?

The majority of American libraries elect to follow the high standards that are set forth by the American Library Association (ALA). One of the most important standards the ALA upholds is intellectual freedom. All libraries strive to create an environment where patrons never fear surveillance. Libraries do not record the histories of their patrons.

Having worked at a library, I’ve seen law enforcement denied access to library computer sign up stations to uphold these standards. I’ve had to say “no” to parents who want to view what their teens have been checking out. Intellectual freedom in American libraries is that serious. Libraries want customers to feel safe to check out any book and conduct any research within their walls, but how is this done outside of their walls? How are library e-books kept from being recorded? . . . They aren’t.

Distributors of digital media, such as OverDrive, OneClickdigital, and EBSCOhost, reserve the rights to track and record your searches and your checkout history. How can they do this if even law enforcements respect Libraries’ sacred standards of intellectual freedom? Local and state authorities understand the need for intellectual freedom within libraries and write privacy laws to check themselves and protect the free and open exchange of knowledge and information. Distributors of digital media might agree with intellectual freedom but they understand they will make much more of a profit if they can track your browsing history for future ads and sell your records to third entities. Digital distributors do not write laws for themselves to ensure their customers’ privacy rights—this is broken.

The article below shows how Arizona is the third state to expand their library privacy laws to include e-books. Digital distributors for libraries within the states of New Jersey, California and, now, Arizona will be charged with a misdemeanor should they ever release information about a user’s library activities. Unfortunately, the distributors are still allowed to keep records of checkout histories. It is not just the library e-book distributors that are broken when it comes to privacy rights but the entire Internet. 

Expanding Privacy Legislation to Include Ebooks


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