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EFF – Librarians, Act Now to Protect Your Users

EFF Posting: “Books checked out from a library and terms searched on library computers can reveal a teenager’s questions about sexual orientation, a neighbor’s religious leanings, or a student’s political interests. Libraries across the country, particularly public libraries, make it part of their mission to serve the most vulnerable and underserved user groups, including users who are homeless, unemployed, or recent migrants or refugees. And when government agents come looking, these library users need librarians to have their back. Libraries and librarians have long been stalwart guardians of the rights of free expression and inquiry. As part of their profession, librarians protect their users’ ability to access even the most controversial information and ideas free from government scrutiny. Since the passage of the Patriot Act in particular, librarians have purged user records when necessary to fight against unconstitutional government demands and pushed back against (unconstitutional) National Security Letters (NSLs). Librarians also stood with EFF and the ACLU when we worked to pass the California Reader Privacy Act in 2011. With the recent election of President-elect Donald Trump, many libraries are rightfully worried about a renewed threat to their users’ privacy. If the incoming administration sticks to its promises to identify and deport millions of people, monitor individuals based on their religious beliefs, and expand libel laws, for example, libraries could receive unprecedented government requests for information on their users. To that end, we recommend libraries ensure they’re taking the following steps as soon as possible to protect their users’ intellectual privacy. In addition, libraries have to think beyond their own actions and take steps to ensure that all of their third-party vendors provide the same level of protections to users that libraries themselves do.”

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