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Magazines > Computers in Libraries > June 2015

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Vol. 35 No. 5 — June 2015
Privacy ≠ Security
by Dick Kaser

I’ve often argued that privacy and security are two sides of the same coin. You cannot have privacy without security, and there is no security without privacy. While we are said to live in extraordinary times that require more surveillance, we also live in times that facilitate an unprecedented capability to monitor what we would otherwise be doing in private.

Librarians have long maintained (and for good reason) that patrons’ reading habits should be kept private. But some assert that library services, similar to those of their consumer counterparts, would only get better if we had machines watching over the shoulders of readers in order to make better recommendations and deliver more of the same stuff to the users’ device.

In the category of “if all of your friends jumped off a bridge”—just because we can, should we? And even if we want to resist—given the tangled web of technologies that not only represent the backbone of library services these days but pervade our very lives—can we?

I asked my columnists to ponder the subject and report to you; they enthusiastically obliged. I also invited some others to chime in.

In a somewhat ironic twist, Jan Zastrow chose to write about a research genre whose purpose is to discover private facts about others. It’s something that more and more patrons of libraries and archives want to do—and it’s called genealogy. While I’m not sure the privacy of a dead person can actually be invaded, I want to take my secrets to the grave.

Dick Kaser, Executive Editor

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