Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Privacy, ALA and your

The American Library Association is a staunch advocate for personal privacy and intellectual freedom...
“The American Library Association affirms that rights of privacy are necessary for intellectual freedom and are fundamental to the ethics and practice of librarianship.”—Privacy: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights
However, those ethics apparently go out the window when a vendor or publisher offers to buy the mailing addresses for ALA members. ALA would sell your mailing address to the devil himself if he had an encyclopedia for sale.

7 comments:

jennimi said...

Is this where all the junk mail from publishers originates??? Buy stuff? Seriously???? Dear lord, let me graduate, get a job, pay off the loans... first? Oh there I am being rude again. [smile] - jennimi

Anonymous said...

There's a box on the membership form where you can tell them you don't want your info sold. If you're getting junk mail, it's your own fault.

granuaile said...

well, so much for intellectual freedom!

Green Librarian said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Green Librarian said...

Perhaps there is a box on the membership form, but for an organization that "affirms that rights of privacy are necessary for intellectual freedom and are fundamental to the ethics and practice of librarianship," the default should be to retain a private citizen's information - not harvest it for institutional gain by relying on a cheap implicit agreement.

However, if anyone knows the publisher of the devil's encyclopedia...hell, I'd sell my soul for one!

Jessamyn said...

There didn't used to be a box on the membership form, actually. Additionally, if you sign up for other things at ALA sometimes you have to opt-out *again*. Additionally, even if you set your communications preference on the web site (you do know about this, right?) to "ALA only" you'll still get advertiser supported stuff like AL Direct which is sort of interesting but still winds up in the bulk bin and I unsubscribed long ago.

This has been something that we've discussed both on the web advisory committee when I was briefly on it and on the ALA Council list. ALA as an organization maintains that they are doing nothing wrong, that this is how business functions etc. Other people who have been interacting with more clueful companies for a decade (and who have followed Yahoo, for example, getting in trouble for not being a lot more cautious about when they were selling off names and putting people on lists) know that there are ways to keep people interested as members/customers without them feeling like you're just treating them as a ten cent name on a mailing list.

For the record, ALA sells the right to use the list and doesn't sell this lists in a way that allow them to be resold. I am aware that this is small comfort -- it certainly isn't to me -- but it's a step towards better practices.

The flip side of course is that as an organization they seem to be a little adrift figuring out how to make money in a new wired world when they're an old-style membership organization, this is one of the reasons the dues increase is coming up on the ballot this year. As a result they are a little on the desparate side for revenue streams which I think is somewhat their own problem, but as a pseudo-m,embership organization, it's ours too regrettably.

Sorry for the long and somewhat dull comment, this just happens to be something that I know a lot about.

Katya said...

jessamyn: not dull -- I learned a lot. I had wondered why I was getting AL Direct when I didn't ask for it and think I opted out of getting junk mail when I filled out the membership form.

An organization that prides itself on respecting the right to privacy should at least respect our rights to privacy and have, like green librarian said, the default option be to keep my membership info private.