Last Friday, I attended the annual symposium of the Greater New York Metropolitan Area Chapter of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL/NY). This year’s theme was Money and Power, and the talks covered standards, instruction, labor, and other library issues that intersect with issues of money and power.
On December 9, we attended an SAA workshop on “Privacy and Confidentiality Issues in Digital Archives,” taught by a dynamic Heather Briston of UCLA on the wintry campus of Mount Holyoke in South Hadley, Massachusetts. Invoking the familiar mantra that we rely on analog laws to govern digital materials, Briston provided a broad review of the legal basis for privacy and confidentiality considerations in archives (including privacy jurisprudence, defamation, HIPAA and FERPA laws). She balanced these discussions with considerations of archival values and ethics, which mandate that we provide the widest possible access to our collections while protecting the rights, and sometimes the interests, of persons and institutions represented within them. While opening records crosses a barrier of privacy by definition, archivists’ efforts to meliorate this act lead toward equilibrium in this intrinsic tension. From a third angle she explored the ways digital technology changes the possibility and condition—as well as our expectations—of privacy and access. Continue reading