This week, the DePaul University Library joins libraries across the country in reminding all members of their communities of the importance of individual privacy rights, and promoting the unique role of libraries and librarians in protecting privacy in the digital age.
Privacy, especially the privacy of data documenting our behavior and preferences across digital platforms, has returned to the top of our concerns about the influence of technology in society following the “revelation … that Facebook allowed data from millions of its users to be captured and improperly used to influence the  presidential election,” and has resulted in new calls for transparency regarding the ways in which our personal data are employed by commercial enterprises, non-profit entities, as well as schools and colleges. Reminding our communities that “Big Data is Watching You,” librarians have been champions of privacy for decades, seeing “the right to read, consider, and develop ideas and beliefs free from observation or unwanted surveillance by the government or others … [as] the bedrock foundation for intellectual freedom.” At DePaul, librarians have collaborated with campus colleagues to teach about privacy and its relationships to intellectual freedom and freedom of speech, and to ensure a principled and transparent approach to the use of data as part of engagement and learning analytics programs such as BlueStar. Understanding how to manage how your data are shared and employed by others is a critical component of digital citizenship, both in the K-12 and the college environment, and another example of the powerful partnerships that can develop among librarians, classroom faculty, and student affairs professionals committed to student learning in the classroom, and beyond.
Libraries are leaders in the ongoing effort to protect your right to privacy in the library, and to educate you about your right to privacy and the tools you may employ to control who makes use of your data, and to what purpose. And, as recent developments in the European Union have shown, e.g., the General Data Protection Regulation, these are global concerns that require each of us to develop and maintain a greater degree of “data literacy” than we may have expected to have had in the past.
Building on last year’s focus on the ways in which librarians help to “transform” teaching, learning, and scholarship at DePaul, we are launching a new campaign to coincide with “Choose Privacy Week” (May 1-7, 2018) focusing on how librarians can help you to learn more about your privacy rights and tools you can use to help to protect your privacy and to manage data in online environments. All “Libraries Transform” messages are available through our institutional repository, Via.
If you would like to know more about data management, or issues related to data privacy, please contact Kindra Morelock, Data Services Librarian