Patron Privacy on Social Media

SP16: INFO-200 Sec 10 – Inf. Comm – Blog Post #5


The NYPL Instagram account is very active and successful in getting people to interact with their posts and engaging users. It shares information about library resources, events. It runs contests, recommends books, and promotes other library sponsored activities. All of this makes them more effective at communicating with their audience and providing access to information. They do however need to be careful in how they protect the privacy of their patrons as they are interacting with the Library’s social media.

The third point on the ALA Code of Ethics refers to a patron’s privacy:

We protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted.

Last week, the NYPL held a Q&A with Marley Diaz of #1000BlackGirlBooks. (Look her up, she’s incredible!) How are these questions from patrons being handled? How can the library protect the patron’s privacy? Is there an expectation of less privacy because the question was asked on a public platform? What happens if Instagram posts are archived at the Library of Congress like Twitter is? Patron interactions, that otherwise would be confidential, could now become public, far beyond the reach of a user’s followers and friends lists.

Other things to consider are the rules that govern the platform, since it is owned by a private company. Instagram as a company has a set of community guidelines for people posting to and engaging with the social media platform. They are a private company so they are allowed to make rules beyond the law. In fact, they have been criticized for  their censorship, specifically for banning photos of female nipples (with the exception of mastectomy scars, breastfeeding, and art). Many photographers have had their photos pulled off the site for violating community guidelines. There is a hashtag campaign to #freethenipple that asks how a photo showing female nipples is any different than shirtless male. An Instagram user might come to a library looking for information on the history of censorship. Intellectual freedom and censorship are important information needs of Instagram users – they are both creators and consumers of content. Additionally, the current state of copyright laws on the internet and how they are being abused as tools for censorship, is important for Instagram users to be aware of.


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Category: INFO200

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