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Chuck Hamaker on Privacy and Confidentiality

This message is reproduced with permission from Chuck Hamaker, the author,
and Marcia Tuttle, the editor/owner of the Newsletter on Serial Prices in
which the piece appeared. The full text from which this is excerpted may
be found on the NOSPI web site, whose URL appears at the end. 

This is an important topic that we should all (producers and librarians)
be paying close attention to, so our thanks to Chuck for raising it.

Now, let's hope that this meaty, long mesage doesn't crash the listproc!


Forwarded message:
Date: 	Wed, 18 Mar 1998 15:25:51 -0500 (EST)
From: Marcia Tuttle <>
To: Prices <>


		      NO 205 -- March 18, 1998
			Editor: Marcia Tuttle


      University of North Carolina at Charlotte,


So librarians have seen their roles as purchasing, leasing, etc. access,
or electronic rights and then encouraging individuals to do their own
thing. We have been getting out of the way as quickly as possible. I
certainly agree with that principle. But as a corollary, use information
is in other institutions' hands, information that formerly was only used
within library contexts. 

What happens when vendors and publishers have, SPECIFIC USER data, i.e.,
down to the exact article, phrase, words, that someone, however briefly,
pulled up or ordered? HOW are those commercial entities going to use that
information? Is Elsevier (oh, it's so easy to pick on them these days)
going to SELL to some producer of goods, (or even share among its various
arms/entities/businesses) a list of people who access an article on
polishing jade or building superconducting supercomputers (do we still
have those)? Will information on who uses what be sold to the highest
bidder? Will the new aggregator vendors routinely pass on to "publishers"
or content owners, logs of WHO used WHICH of their titles? Those
individuals could become targets for specific sales. Or perhaps the AUTHOR
will want to know exactly WHO read her latest opus (Hey that sounds


In the rush to meet the common goal of full text access -- of individuals
getting to what they need or want, or are just vaguely interested in --
are the protections that libraries provide -- a cloak of anonymity, at
least in in-house use -- disappearing with librarians doing little on the
demise of one of the primary characteristics of current use of the serial
literature? Yes, many institutions are working on setting up their own
authentication servers, some because of recognition of the need for
privacy of certain individual identification information (such as social
security number). But once the individual entering is "authenticated,"
what's to keep the information provider from determining who is reading
their information? 

Are we writing into our contracts with primary publishers, secondary
vendors, distributors, and aggregator services, protection of the
anonymity that is taken for granted when I read a newspaper in the


Use data WITHIN libraries has some protection, legal and cultural. Are
there guarantees of confidentiality being built in when consortia and
libraries provide such services to their specific user groups? Can a
private, non-commercial company even begin to provide the guarantees of
those rights that are traditionally provided by libraries? What if Richard
Jewel -- who, if anyone, knows the extremes the government can go to in
investigation -- had used online information sources through his local
library's good graces? Would those uses have ended up in the investigative
files? Some consortia are actively discussing these issues. Do we have a


Who should look at that information within the library that has paid for
that use? Is privacy a part of our responsibilities, as much as price and
connectivity and content. Without knowing who, can we evaluate
expenditures, evaluate whether they should continue to be paid from
library funds? Is it important to know the mix of off-site usage to
in-house usage, and whether it is grad students or undergraduates or
faculty doing the using? Or whether 1,000 uses are all from the same
person or spread across the whole user community? 


I've asked a few vendors and publishers about this, and so far most have
indicated these are NOT issues that have been raised in contract
discussions, though most have thought about them. I suspect some of
NOSPI's readers have engaged in these kinds of discussions. I would
greatly appreciate being educated. How are they being addressed? What, if
any, consensus is emerging, both from a philosophical basis and from a
practical, hands-on, perspective in contracts? What have been the results?

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