Posted by: bluesyemre | November 7, 2012

As Libraries Go Digital, Sharing of Data Is at Odds With Tradition of Privacy

As Libraries Go Digital, Sharing of Data Conflicts With Tradition of Privacy 2

Readers in Harvard U.’s Widener Library can return books to the “Awesome Box,” creating a data trail about what they consider great. “Awesomed” selections are then publicized via Twitter.

  • Colleges share many things on Twitter, but one topic can be risky to broach: the reading habits of library patrons. Harvard librarians learned that lesson when they set up Twitter feeds broadcasting titles of books being checked out from campus libraries. It seemed harmless enough—a typical tweet read, “Reconstructing American Law by Bruce A. Ackerman,” with a link to the book’s library catalog entry—but the social-media experiment turned out to be more provocative than library staffers imagined. Harvard suspended the practice after privacy concerns were raised. Even though the Twitter stream randomized checkout times and did not disclose patrons’ identities, the worry was that someone might somehow use other details to identify the borrowers.

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