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The Correlation of Privacy and Censorship

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Introduction

Censorship means deletion or excision of parts of published materials and also efforts to ban, prohibit, suppress, prosecute, remove, label, or restrict materials, censorship is an effort by a groups to prevent people from reading, seeing, or hearing what may be considered as dangerous to government or harmful to public morality.

Privacy

Definition

In a library, user privacy is the right to open investigation without having the subject of one’s interest examined or scrutinized by others. Confidentiality exists when the library has possession of personally information about the users and keeps that information private. “This responsibility is assumed when library procedures create records including, but not limited to closed-stack call slips, computer sign-up sheets, registration for equipment or facilities, circulation records, what websites were visited, reserve notices, or research notes.” (Privacy and Confidentiality)

Importance of Privacy

A library should limit personally identifiable information is collected, disclosed, or retained while completing the duty to comply with the state’s library confidentiality. Per the ALA Statements and Policies, a lack of privacy and confidentiality suppresses access to ideas. The possibility of surveillance, direct or through access to records of speech, research and exploration, undermines a democratic society. One cannot exercise the right to read if the consequences include damage to one’s reputation, ostracism from the community or workplace, or criminal penalties. For libraries to become successful as centers for uninhibited access to information, librarians must stand behind the users’ right to privacy.

Protecting Patrons

Article VII of the Library Bill of Rights counsels that libraries should ‘advocate for, educate about, and protect people’s privacy, safeguarding all library use data, including personally identifiable information.” (Caldwell-Stone) This requires libraries and all those who work in libraries to uphold an atmosphere that is civil, respectful, and protective of the library user’s privacy. The possibility of observation through access to records of speech, research and exploration undermines the society. For libraries to become successful as centers for access to information, librarians must stand behind their users’ right to privacy and freedom of inquiry.

Patron information to the list above is kept private. Any report that is pulled will not be published publicly. Rockwall Public Library limits the degree to which personally identifiable information is monitored, collected, disclosed, and distributed. The library also ensures that contracts and licenses reflect library policies and legal obligations concerning user privacy and confidentiality; making sure that the agreements addresses appropriate restrictions on the use, aggregation, dissemination, and sale of personally identifiable information, particularly information about minors.

For Rockwall Public Library, all surveys, questionnaires, and needs assessments are completed on a “no-personal” information basis. To improve the collection, the library uses a Likert-type scale for the attendees to privately measure the opinions. The organization uses methods to understand an insight of whether the users are happy with the collections or genres that are currently on the shelves; and if they have additional opinions regarding what they would like to have on the shelves.

Choice means giving users options to how any personal information collected from them may be used. Provision of many library services requires the collection and retention of personally identifiable information. Whether this is required, automatic, or voluntary, the library should retain this information only as long as is necessary to fulfill the function for which it was initially acquired. Two commonly used arrangements are ‘opt-in’ and “opt out”. With opt-in, by default they are not included and affirmative steps are required for inclusion. With opt-out, by default is included and affirmative steps are required for exclusion. If they choose to opt-out there will not be a conflict between privacy and accessing the needs of the user.

Government Investigations

A subpoena is used to compel a person or entity to produce documents for evidence. Normally, a subpoena can be issued by an attorney, as they fill out the appropriate documentation under oath and follow the service of process procedures. The distinction between a subpoena and a search warrant is that a warrant will compel an individual to allow others access to private belongings; the standard required to issue a search warrant is stricter. For example, a judge having jurisdiction or authority in a specific area where the desired search is for may only issue a search warrant.

Neither Rockwall government officials nor police officers are legally authorized to demand library records without first providing some form of judicial process (subpoena, search warrant, or other legally enforceable court order) to the library holding the records. Requiring a court order is neither unusual nor troublesome. Law administration officers have access to judges even after normal business hours. If law enforcement officers believe there is an imminent threat to someone’s life or the safety of the public, if there is inadequate time to obtain a warrant and they have probable cause for seizure of records – the officers may simply take custody of the records over the library’s objection bearing any legal risks associated with the decision to proceed without a warrant. Libraries do not have the liability to accumulate or retain the information about library users on behalf of law enforcement. However, when library personnel believe that a crime has been committed in the library, the library should contact the police and then use reasonable efforts to preserve any direct evidence of that crime. The library should provide the evidence to police in accordance with the law, which may require the police to obtain a court order before viewing or copying relevant library records.

Censorship

Definition

Censorship occurs when materials, like books, magazines, videos, or works of art are removed or reserved from the public. Self-censorship is the act of censoring oneself because of the fear that governments, firms, or institutions will find something that is objectionable, sensitive, or politically incorrect. Censorship pressures institutions, to suppress and remove information considered inappropriate from public access, so that no one else has the chance to read, view the material, and make up their own minds about it.

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Examples of Censorship

Libraries have the responsibility of providing free access to resources and content to suffice the intellectual, academic, and social needs of a community. Librarians must ensure that they gage book collections that expose patrons to diverse ideas and perspectives. The goal here is simple: to support the core values of librarianship as it pertains to the “rights of library users to read, seek information, and speak freely as guaranteed by the First Amendment.”

A 2008 survey, conducted by the School Library Journal on self-censorship, revealed that school librarians are most culpable when it comes to this type of censoring. Survey results indicate that some school librarians admitted to self-censoring. Out of 653 schools librarians, many indicated a tendency to avoid books with “sexual content (87%), language (61%), violence (51%), homosexuality (47%), racism (34%), and religion (16%) because they are afraid of parental backlash.” Self-censoring due to “fear” can become a slippery slope with consequences more disastrous than the fear itself. (Jamison)

The American Library Association urges librarians to think of the by maintaining the position that “freedom has given the United States the elasticity to endure strain. Freedom keeps open the path of novel and creative solutions and enables change to come by choice. Every silencing of a heresy, every enforcement of an orthodoxy, diminishes the toughness and resilience of our society and leaves it the less able to deal with controversy and difference.”

How to Handle Censorship

The library’s role is to provide access to as much as possible of that knowledge, both past and present. Libraries don’t have infinite book budgets or endless shelf space; therefore they must select materials to be included in their collections. “A library walks a fine line between the creation of a coherent collection of our world’s knowledge and censorship. Censorship ignores history. When libraries choose to carry materials that may be offensive to some people in the community, they do it with a view to the future. What matters isn’t that an idea is popular or unpopular today, but that it may have an influence that will eventually be significant. Not all determinations of the relative value of ideas and works are correct, and eventually, libraries will discard items that haven’t lived up to their promise.” (Katherine Coyle) But to select or reject works would be offensive; to eradicate enormous amounts of human thought, written words, and art would create lack of access would preclude further study and use of that knowledge and experience.

Government Legislation

Past and Present

The purpose of the USA Patriot Act is to discourage terrorist acts in the United States. “Section 314 of the Patriot Act helps law enforcement identify, disrupt, and prevent terrorist acts and money laundering activities by encouraging further cooperation among law enforcement, regulators, and financial institutions to share information.” (USA National Intelligence)

Network neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers (ISPs) are required to treat any and all Internet interactions, and to not discriminate or charge differently based on user, content, website, platform, application, type of equipment, source addresses, or method of communication. With net neutrality, ISPs may not intentionally block, slow down, or charge money for specific online content. Without net neutrality, ISPs may prioritize certain types of traffic or even potentially block traffic from specific services, while charging consumers for various tiers of similar service.

The Freedom to Read Foundation (FTRF) is a non-profit legal and educational organization affiliated with the American Library Association. This organizations sole purpose is to protect and defend the right of the First Amendment to the Constitution and supports the rights of libraries to collect – and individuals to access – information.

“The LeRoy C. Merritt Humanitarian Fund is devoted to the support, maintenance, medical well-being, and welfare of librarians who are being denied employment rights, being discriminated against based on gender, sexual orientation, race, color, creed, religion, age, disability, or place of national origin. Additionally if individuals are denied employment rights because of defense of intellectual freedom; that is, threatened with loss of employment or discharged because of their stand for the cause of intellectual freedom, including promotion of freedom of the press, freedom of speech, the freedom of librarians to select items for their collections from all the world’s written and recorded information, and defense of privacy rights.” (American Library Association)

Library Funding

The Rockwall County Library moved to a modern facility in September 2008, funded by an $11.5 million bond issue passed by the citizens of the county in November 2004.The library is approximately five times the size of the former facility and was designed by library architects from PSA-Dewberry and built by Pogue Construction. Rockwall tax payer monies are also used to provide libraries with grants at the local level, to fund statewide databases, and to provide necessary state infrastructure so that libraries can operate smoothly. These grants come directly from the federal government through the appropriations bill. Grants provide financial support for local libraries critical for training library staff, affording database access and helping to provide users access to information through library networks. While the majority of library funding comes from the local level, especially for public libraries such funding largely covers administrative costs and collection development and maintenance.

Importance of Awareness

The Rockwall Library does have an in-house advisory board created for the sole purpose to encourage development, recommending court policies and programs, and reviewing the annual need of the library prior to the submission to the court. All policies and procedures are made and changed through the advisory board. Librarians can keep up with what is going on at the local, state, and federal levels by attending town hall meetings and viewing the updates on the Rockwall Government website. The newer updated policies are kept at the county hall and digital copies are updated on the county website.

Conclusion

“Public libraries function as limited public forums for access to information. Article V of the Library Bill of Rights states: “A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.” Meaning policies, procedures, or regulations that may result in denying, restricting, or creating physical or economic barriers to access to the library’s public forum must be based on a compelling government interest. (Guidelines for Library Policies) Throughout the research of this paper, there were no surprises; the researcher did not have any concerns about the state of libraries and information centers. Nor should library and information professionals should be concerned about privacy, censorship, and government legislation. The regulations, policies, and procedures recognized by the Rockwall Government improve the established the mission of the library; define its functions, services, and operations; and help ascertain the rights and responsibilities of the individuals served by the library.

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The Correlation of Privacy and Censorship. (2022, Jun 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-correlation-of-privacy-and-censorship/
“The Correlation of Privacy and Censorship.” Edubirdie, 16 Jun. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/the-correlation-of-privacy-and-censorship/
The Correlation of Privacy and Censorship. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-correlation-of-privacy-and-censorship/> [Accessed 28 Jan. 2023].
The Correlation of Privacy and Censorship [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 16 [cited 2023 Jan 28]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-correlation-of-privacy-and-censorship/
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