Library patron privacy in jeopardy an analysis of the privacy policies of digital content vendors

April D. Lambert, Michelle Parker, Masooda Bashir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While the library profession has long defended readers’ privacy, a public library patron's personal information is no longer solely in the hands of intrepid librarians determined to defend intellectual freedom. Libraries use vendors to provide a large portion of their digital content. These vendors gain access to extensive personal information about patrons. Libraries often must negotiate with content providers to ensure privacy protections for their patrons that are in accordance with the American Library Association's Code of Ethics. This paper presents the results of a content analysis of the privacy policies of five of the top digital content vendors of American public libraries. We examined whether these privacy policies (1) meet the privacy standards of the library community, (2) meet other industry standards, and (3) are accessible and understandable to public library patrons. Our results demonstrate that while vendors are largely meeting the Fair Information Practices standards of American industry, the policies fail to meet the heightened standards of the library community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the Association for Information Science and Technology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2015


  • Privacy
  • digital content
  • fair information practices
  • public libraries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Computer Science
  • Library and Information Sciences


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