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Ross Sempek ross.sempek at gmail.com
Tue Oct 16 06:39:24 PDT 2018

Welcome to Tuesday Topics, a monthly series covering topics with
intellectual freedom implications for libraries of all types. Each message
is prepared by a member of OLA's Intellectual Freedom Committee or a guest
writer. Questions can be directed to the author of the topic or to the IFC

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*US Senate Committee Hearing and Privacy Laws*

In the Internet-age, our sense of privacy seems a misnomer
When online businesses commodify user information while hiding behind
arcane privacy policies it incentivizes a sort of one-way transparency.
This imbalance has manifested itself in the public psyche in the form of data
and Facebook’s ethical misconduct. Following unfavorable media coverage,
and a din of public outcry, the US Government is looking to update its
privacy laws in order to grant users more control over the personal
information that is supplied to private enterprise.

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation held a hearing
on September 26th attended by representatives from Internet-industry giants
like Twitter, Amazon, and Google. The purpose of the hearing was to elicit
input from tech companies on what they could do to better protect consumer
data privacy
Notably absent from the guest list were consumer advocates, or anyone to
offer a second opinion, which stoked critics’ fears that this represents
the industry’s big push for enterprise-friendly federal privacy legislation
With the recent spate of State-enacted privacy laws
it is believed that such a ruling would override laws at the State level
and give companies the legal authority to quash attempts to pass stricter
privacy legislation.
While the tenets of privacy embody values that librarians cherish, these
potential changes to US privacy law transcend our profession. This affects
all who use these media, including the very libraries that provide access
to, and engage with these online platforms.

In recognition of these facts, The Office of the Federal Register has
provided a platform for public comments
on the issues surrounding consumer data privacy measures. Guidelines for
submitting comments can be found under the Addresses heading at the
beginning, as well as Instructions for Commenters at the end. These
comments will be considered in the drafting of such laws, and will be part
of the public record. I recommend reading the outline on the philosophy
behind future policy, and the questions provided near the end of the
document in order to guide your comments. These must be received by 11:59
PM Eastern Daylight Time (8:59 PM on the west coast) on October 26th,

It is crucial to make your voice heard in these matters, but regardless of
the outcome librarians should follow the ensuing conclusions of these
hearings and public commentary.  The ubiquity of US law behooves librarians
to educate patrons about these new rules, and reevaluate their
institutions’ internal privacy policies and data-management workflows. Take
advantage of this opportunity to inform legislation that will likely have
far-reaching consequences.

Ross Sempek
Master of Library and Information Science
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