week 20: right to privacy

Hi all, remember that we won’t have a real time lecture this week. Watch Jessie Rossman’s lecture from last year here: https://vimeo.com/281667258

  • How are your communities affected by the loss of privacy rights?
  • How is your library equipped to enforce privacy rights?
  • How does your state fare with regard to library privacy law? Does it seem like your local law is sufficient to protect patrons?

My takeaways and thoughts from Jessie’s talk:

How do the courts look at facial recognition with regard to the 4th Amendment? Can it fit into “mosaic theory”? I think it can. How is this being pushed in the bans and moratorium language? What about automated license plate readers? Seems like the Jones decision Jessie talks about should cover this too.

I’m also glad she mentioned Riley because we should absolutely be talking about this case in any “Know Your Rights” discussion regarding cell phones.

I’m really glad Jessie stressed the importance of some of the themes we’ve worked with throughout this course: not keeping data, and having strong policies that staff are familiar with.

I think any good law enforcement policy should clarify the differences between warrants, subpoenas, and national security letters, too.

My library had an actual visit from DHS officers last week. I wasn’t in the library at the time, but my colleague happened upon two men (she described them as white guys in polo shirts) who were in a room that was supposed to be locked (it was first thing in the morning, so it may have been left open from the previous night). She kindly asked them to go into a different space, and they were pretty rude to her. They said, “But we’re already meeting here,” as if they are entitled to any space in the world. We later found out that they were from DHS and they had a scheduled meeting with a patron later that morning. Before they met with that person, though, they approached another patron and started asking her lots of questions – where are you from, where do you live, etc. She was, understandably, shaken. She is a Somali immigrant, a community that has been/still is surveilled. I hate that they can be in our space and intimidate people. We are having “know your rights” cards printed up so patrons know they do NOT have to talk to them and answer their questions.


Ugh. Reading about this infuriates me.

I hope the know your rights cards are effective.

Wow, this is disturbing. I am glad you responded with having KYR cards available in the library. This is also a good time to review policies with staff about answering law enforcement questions. I would even try to bring in an ACLU lawyer or county lawyer. There’s a chance your community is getting targeted in the same way that the community in Washington in that NYT article I posted the other day is. Let me know if you want to check in about this on a call.

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GREAT idea to bring in county attorney or someone from ACLU. My library is closing for a three month renovation next week, but this could be a could staff training for right before we reopen.

let me know if you need a local ACLU contact!

Do you know one? Would love that!

Just talked to my supervisor, and he was on board with having a staff training about this – yay! We discussed after we had another incident this morning. My colleague had spoken on the phone to someone who was asking about whether his “friend” in the library. We get these calls pretty regularly and have to explain that we cannot give information about who is in the library. However, this time, my colleague said the phone call felt differently. He suspects that it was a cop calling, posing as a friend, looking for someone. Totally just a hunch, but a good reason nonetheless for a good reminder about how we deal with law enforcement.

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This is terrifying and I am so sorry your library is dealing with this so frequently.

Jesse Rossman’s lecture was so helpful in hearing about surveillance from the legal side of things. Not only did I learn a lot about process, I learned a lot of language and vocabulary to use later when explaining how important our right to privacy is. I think I am going to have to rewatch the lecture and add to my notes. So much good info!

I can honestly say that I don’t know about how our library is equipped to enforce privacy rights. I do know that we don’t keep a record of what patrons circulate, as do other libraries, and this aligns with Jessie’s statement that records that don’t exist can’t be acquired by enforcement agencies. I am almost certain that the library camera data is only kept for a day or two, and the quality is really so terrible, that it would be difficult or impossible to provide these records if requested. Our library website does link to ALA’s State Privacy Laws Regarding Library Records, but we don’t seem to have one written specifically for our library. So, I plan to follow-up with my Dean and colleagues. This won’t be a hard sell, but I can see that this will require some thought particularly in respect to records and how they should be handled, maintained or discarded.

On a mostly related note (and I might have already shared this), my wallet was stolen from my desk last year, and the campus police officer that came to take my statement, told me that we would better able to identify the suspect if there were cameras in our office area. He wanted me to advocate for them, and I realize that this is probably how sometimes these conversations or invasions of privacy start. They try to lull people into thinking that they are safer with surveillance.

Anyhow, this was a really useful and thought-provoking lecture. I certainly feel more confident in the process, and the various levels of requests and various enforcement agencies tied to each type of request. I just realize that I much more to learn in this area.

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Really dug Jessie’s video. OMG we get no training on this at all beyond ‘call the president’s office’. They’re more worried about staff speaking to the press than warrants or asks from police.

The concept of ‘mosaic theory’ was a new one for me. I have these little pieces of information wandering in the wilderness of my mind suddenly finding homes and long lost families.
Related: I am reading Snowden’s book and he talks about FISA warrants. In one classified document he came across the NSA legal team was insisting that there was no requirement to get a warrant for ‘bulk collection’ of private communications data until they queried their own database for an individual’s info. Basically saying that collecting data at such a scale wasn’t stressing any one individual’s rights until they specifically searched for that one individual’s info. The idea that they’d get a warrant each time they searched their own database is some straight up bullshit.

Working on getting a contact. Kade and Jessie didn’t know anyone offhand but I asked Jessie to ask around the office. Will report back. I shared with them what’s going on (including this disturbing stuff about the phone calls) and so I hope we can get someone from that office to assist with a training.

Absolutely. And likewise, if it would be helpful, we could arrange for a civil liberties lawyer to come back you up or do a staff training.

Collect it all, sort it out later! And yeah we know from other docs that got revealed that there’s no way that they get warrants every time they search their own databases. Laughable.

I loved Jessie’s lecture. It was great to hear from an ACLU lawyer exactly what documents we are required to take action on & what documents don’t hold weight.

The thing that immediately struck me was the need for staff training & re-training. Generally, we’re told not to hand anything over & report it to higher-ups to send up the chain of command to be dealt with, much the same as Maty’s experience. At the very least, I think all library staff should be aware of what we have to hand over & when, especially because of the urgency & forceful language law enforcement can often use when demanding records. This language and demeanor can easily fluster someone, but having knowledge and facts to back them up might make them think twice before potentially handing over records if pressured.

the good news is that our friends at the ACLU can almost always be summoned to help with trainings like this

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Thank you so much!