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At this year’s Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) Fall 2017 Membership Meeting, Bonnie Tijerina spoke about the implications of using data science in libraries.

“Data science approaches may shed light on otherwise hard-to-see problems in the library.”  — D&S researcher Bonnie Tijerina


book | 05.19.17

Protecting Patron Privacy

Bonnie Tijerina, Bobbie Newman

Protecting Patron Privacy, edited by Bobbi Newman and Data & Society Researcher Bonnie Tijerina, suggests strategies for data privacy in libraries.

Although privacy is one of the core tenets of librarianship, technology changes have made it increasingly difficult for libraries to ensure the privacy of their patrons in the 21st century library.

This authoritative LITA Guide offers readers guidance on a wide range of topics, including:
• Foundations of privacy in libraries
• Data collection, retention, use, and protection
• Laws and regulations
• Privacy instruction for patrons and staff
• Contracts with third parties
• Use of in-house and internet tools including social network sites, surveillance video, and RFID


D&S affiliate Seeta Peña Gangadharan writes about defending digital rights of library patrons.

If this sounds complicated and scary, that’s because it is. But confronted with this matrix of vulnerabilities, the library—with its longstanding commitment to patron privacy—also offers an impressive plan of action.


D&S fellow Anne L. Washington discusses her previous research as a digital government scholar and her upcoming work examining US open data policy, funded through a five-year National Science Foundation Early Faculty Research Career grant.

“We use a secret language in academia sometimes,” [Washington] says, laughing. “‘Technology management’ is about how organisations leverage digital assets for strategic business goals. My doctorate is in management information systems.  On the other side of that is ‘informatics’, which comes from the library science tradition. Over centuries, librarians have refined how to store and retrieve knowledge so people can find what they need and walk away smarter. Informatics takes this basic idea and scales it up for massive digital collections.”


D&S researcher Bonnie Tijerina discusses the development of a “hands-on professional training program on data and privacy literacy in hopes of showing how this knowledge can positively impact their service to library patrons.”


In the era of big data, how do researchers ethically collect, analyze, and store data? danah boyd, Emily F. Keller, and Bonnie Tijerina explore this question and examine issues from how to achieve informed consent from research subjects in big data research to how to store data securely in case of breaches. The primer evolves into a discussion on how libraries can collaborate with computer scientists to examine ethical big data research issues.


D&S researcher Bonnie Tijerina offers an overview of the work undertaken by the Supporting Ethics in Data Research project.

Complex data sets raise challenging ethical questions about risk to individuals who are not sufficiently covered by computer science training, ethics codes, or Institutional Review Boards (IRBs). The use of publicly available, corporate, and government data sets may reveal human practices, behaviors, and interactions in unintended ways, creating the need for new kinds of ethical support. Secondary data use invokes privacy and consent concerns. A team at Data & Society recently conducted interviews and campus visits with computer science researchers and librarians at eight U.S. universities to examine the role of research librarians in assisting technical researchers as they navigate emerging issues of privacy, ethics, and equitable access to data at different phases of the research process.


teaching | 08.31.15

Data Privacy Project

Bonnie Tijerina, Bex Hurwitz, Seeta Peña Gangadharan, Nate Hill, Melissa Morrone

In collaboration with New America, the Brooklyn Public Library, Research Action Design, and the Metropolitan New York Library Council, Data & Society launched The Data Privacy Project to equip library staff with the skills to effectively support patrons around digital privacy and data profiling.

Seventy-five years after the American Libraries Association pledged to protect patron privacy, the Data Privacy Project helps libraries better prepare individuals and communities for the challenges of always-on, digitally networked, and easily surveilled lifestyles.

Inspiration for the project began in 2012. Research done in part with collaboration from Brooklyn Public Library found that frontline library staff required training and ongoing support to better respond to patron needs regarding digital privacy or data profiling issues.1 The Data Privacy Project aims to meet that need. With additional training and easy step- by-step resource guides and straightforward training materials, we believe that libraries will be more likely to live up to their professional commitment to protecting patron privacy.

As the Internet and its usage continue to influence and shape our lives, the issues of digital privacy and data profiling are central to policymaking and public debate. The extent of government surveillance programs, differential treatment of online consumers, and the need for protection of sensitive personal data have increased the urgency of addressing these matters.

Before 2015, it was rare to hear about professional development opportunities for library professionals in the area of digital privacy and data literacy. Today, there is much more awareness in the library world about privacy and surveillance concerns and how they affect communities of library users. However, digital privacy still does not feature prominently in the discussion, planning, and programming related to activities serving to bridge the ongoing digital divide, including at public libraries, which play a critical role in providing public access to the Internet. It is becoming more and more evident that libraries cannot afford to overlook digital privacy or data profiling when promoting digital inclusion.

The Data Privacy Project teaches NYC library staff how information travels and is shared online, what risks users commonly encounter online, and how libraries can better protect patron privacy. Its trainings help support libraries’ increasing role in empowering their communities in a digital world. Funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the project is led by a team of library professionals, researchers, tech experts, and community activists interested in the impact of technological advances on everyone, especially the most vulnerable populations in the U.S.


Excerpt: “[D&S fellow] Bonnie Tijerina: ‘Right now I am working on creating resources for digital privacy literacy, helping to ensure our communities are aware of the rights they give up when they are online and empower them to choose what makes sense for them with the right knowledge. I am also talking with various stakeholders about an increased role for libraries to play in storing and making accessible open data and providing support for citizen scientists’ participation in the big data movement.'”


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