Privacy and Ethics in Technology

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The Digital Library Federation’s Privacy and Ethics in Technology Working Group (PET) affirms that privacy is a human right and collective good fundamental to the health of scholarship, creativity, personal agency, and democracy.

Privacy is essential to equity. All residents of a free society need privacy while seeking information, communicating with others, and developing ideas. This is especially true for marginalized groups, who are disproportionately affected by data exploitation. DLF PET advocates for ethical technologies and practices that respect and empower patrons both in library spaces and beyond.


The Privacy and Ethics in Technology Working Group (formerly know as the Technologies of Surveillance Working Group) was formed at the end of the 2017 DLF Forum by Yasmeen Shorish and Shea Swauger. This group came out of the Surveyance or Surveillance? Working Lunch at the Forum and is dedicated to challenging our relationships with data collection technologies. Libraries are increasingly investing in systems that can track and correlate user behavior.

This group will examine the methods and ethical implications of these technologies and seeks to establish guidelines for how to challenge and avoid intrusive technologies wherever we encounter them in our profession.

Resources for Improving Privacy

Advocacy Action Plan:

Digital Privacy Instruction Curriculum:

Vendor Privacy Policy Analysis Project:

Ethics in Research Use of Library Patron Data: Glossary and Explainer:

A Practical Guide to Performing a Library User Data Risk Assessment in Library-Built Systems:

Get Involved

Please join our DLF-administered listserv(On the right menu, under 'Options,' click 'Subscribe or Unsubscribe').

Data collection behavior extends far beyond the systems that libraries have direct connections with. One way to help track the news stories and investigative work done in this area is through Twitter, using the hashtag #panoptitech. Follow this tag and add any relevant stories that you come across!

Our sub-groups are:

Library-Built Systems

This sub-group investigates the systems that libraries create, such as open source repositories.

LBS Meeting Minutes

All minutes available in OSF, under 'Files' in the 'MeetingNotes' folder:

Vendor Built Systems

This sub-group investigates the systems that libraries purchase or lease, such as an ILS or database.

VBS Meetings

2018-03-16 Minutes here: View Minutes

Instruction and Outreach

This sub-group investigates effective outreach and instruction strategies for our communities on topic related to data collection and privacy.

Instruction Meetings

2018-03-26 Minutes here: View Minutes

OSF repository here: View repository

Digital Privacy Curriculum here: View curriculum

Running meeting minutes here: View minutes

Professional Research Ethics

This sub-group will investigate surveillance ethics in library-based research. A Google Folder of the work is available here: View Folder.

A Zotero library for existing learning-analytics or patron-data principles documents and related material is here: View Zotero

Research Ethics Meetings

2018-03-15 Minutes here: View Minutes


This sub-group will investigate how to resist administrative pressure to surrender library data to campus and/or engage in privacy-damaging assessment practices.

Advocacy Meetings

2019-01-22 Minutes here: Download Minutes

018-02-28 Minutes here: Download Minutes

OSF Space

Minutes and other materials from this Working Group can be found at our OSF site:

All Group Meetings

2019-10-01 Agenda and Minutes:

2018-08-08 Agenda and Minutes:

2018-06-04 Agenda and Minutes:

2018-04-18 Agenda and Minutes:

2018-01-31 Agenda and Minutes:



Group Leadership

The ToS Working Group is currently co-convened by Scott W. H. Young (term 2018-2020) and Michelle Gibeault (term 2020-2022).

The group has previously been co-convened by Yasmeen Shorish (term 2017-2018) and Shea Swauger (term 2017-2019).


  1. The Library Freedom Project has some slide decks to start:
  2. NISO Consensus Principles
  3. ALA Privacy checklists and best practices:
  4. Michigan’s courses/events on privacy: and
  5. Cornell’s resources:
  6. Prototyping Jason Griffey’s Measure the Future, which doesn’t capture identifying information (and he’s been vocal about privacy within libraries), but how to navigate communicate the usage of a tool like this.
  7. Karen Coyle’s privacy audit: