39 Association of Research Libraries Research Library Issues 297 2019 enforcement, or the possible unauthorized use by third-party vendors. For example, law enforcement may seek video recordings from security cameras to collect information about an alleged crime. A database vendor might resell data about a patron or might market to a patron without the library’s permission. On the truly darker side is the ever- present danger that library data could be stolen (and occasionally held ransom) by hackers or unwittingly left out in the open, available for anyone to discover it. Finally, when libraries strive to provide improved, more-personalized services tailored to their patrons, they often find themselves forced into making difficult, ethical choices about the use of cutting-edge technology that easily allows them to track and analyze how, where, and when patrons are using library materials. If a library is offering a program on a topic that is likely to be of interest to a particular patron, how might the library target an email to that patron (aside from the patron proactively signing up to receive such notices)? These scenarios raise important privacy and confidentiality challenges, including a patron’s right to opt in and opt out of how and when the library collects her personal information. Although we often use the words privacy and confidentiality interchangeably, there is a distinct difference between the two concepts. Privacy, by definition, is an individual’s right to control the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information. For example, an individual makes certain decisions about her privacy when seeing a doctor for an exam. The individual grants permission to the doctor to conduct an examination that will reveal personal information to the doctor about the individual’s health. Confidentiality, on the other hand, is the obligation of an individual, organization, or business to protect personal information and not misuse or wrongfully disclose that information. In the example of the doctor visit, the doctor has a duty of confidentiality to protect the information learned during the individual’s exam and must abide by the patient’s decisions about what information, to whom, and when it can be shared.
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