What will the future look like? Consumers may decide

Last week, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) hosted a panel discussion on IT and disruptive innovation featuring the authors of Code Halos: How the Digital Lives of People, Things, and Organizations are Changing the Rules of Business.

The discussion focused on the way in which consumers leave a code trail, or “halo” in virtually everything they do from personal finance to fitness pursuits to enjoying music. Thanks to the internet of things, predictive sites such as Pandora and Netflix, and industry-disrupting services like Uber and Airbnb, user data can be generated across the span of our day-to-day lives. This data can reveal surprising patterns about us; panel moderator and President of ITIF Robert Atkinson shared the example of how music preferences accurately predict political leaning. If you listen to Garth Brooks, apparently you are overwhelmingly likely to vote Republican, and Pandora has realized that selling user data on music preferences to political organizations can be a profitable business.

But what about the role of government policy and the protection of privacy? The panelists differed on the necessary approach to regulating the market in the digital age, though they agreed on one key point: legislation will not keep up with the rate of technology, and this will require placing a huge amount of trust in corporations to “not be evil.” To some, that may sounds like quite a paradox, but the panelists were overall enthusiastic about innovation possibilities outweighing privacy dangers. They suggested that because companies will rely on acquiring user data, they have an incentive to be transparent and play by the rules in order to maintain their customers’ trust and interest.

To assume that everyone can equally understand and navigate the internet and the growing wealth of digital information is a narrow and inaccurate perception

One argument presented stipulates that disruption actually gives consumers more freedom and privacy by facilitating their ability to quickly communicate with each other. It is easier than ever for individuals to collect and share information about products and services, and through sites and apps like Yelp and Tripadvisor, they can market successful businesses to one another. Could this be a way for consumers to regulate new emerging digital markets faster and more efficiently than government, which is slow to keep up?

Another argument is that while disruptive innovation makes consumers less able to remain anonymous to data-collectors, it actually allows them to enjoy more privacy from their neighbors. In small towns, for example, seeking online health information eliminates the concern of buying a book when the salesperson knows your mother-in-law, or calling your doctor who you will then see tomorrow at the PTA meeting.

However, many important policy questions remain. While the benefits of disruptive innovation are giving consumers more for lower costs, what becomes of jobs in sectors that are disrupted? What happens if the government were to digitize services to maximize efficiency (like customs offices at airports) and cuts thousands of jobs, often for working class citizens? Will these displaced workers benefit from IT innovation and new services, or will they be unable to afford access?

During the Q&A the topic turned to the digital divide. Questions from the audience focused on how those who are disconnected from the world of tech efficiency will fit into the new business frameworks that are being created by disruptive innovation. Panelists’ answers indicated that like any emerging innovation and infrastructure, IT will diffuse slowly from concentrated markets outwards, just as electricity, cars, telephones, trains, and film have in the past.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the conversation centered on consumers and industries. Libraries were not discussed as “third space” providers and access points to technology when discussing the digital divide. When I raised the question of how the authors saw libraries being impacted by disruptive technologies, they lauded the valuable public space libraries provide, but debated whether we will need librarians, assuming everyone will be able to find information online. Another thought that in the future libraries will downsize, getting rid of the stacks and just having computer access.

This fairly uninformed view of what librarians really do indicates the growing need for libraries to amplify their voices in communicating all that they offer, curate, and make possible in both print and digital resources. The E’s of Libraries, ™ facilitating education, empowerment, employment, entrepreneurship and engagement, are growing increasingly more important for a public in which digital literacy is still a significant challenge. To assume that everyone can equally understand and navigate the internet and the growing wealth of digital information is a narrow and inaccurate perception, as is assuming that librarians will not be needed in playing the role of information enablers and knowledge curators.

While there are many potential benefits in the decisions being made now in the “early days of the new era of commerce” it is clear that many more diverse discussions on the value of privacy, regulations, algorithm analytics, censorship, and security will need to happen to ensure positive development and social value added.

Libraries support the public interest in ways that the tech industry and market cannot, and going forward into an innovative, disruptive era could leave many trapped on the wrong side of the digital divide. Libraries are vital because they are institutions not driven by profit, and are thereby the best actor suited to teaching digital skills and helping the public understand the benefits and tradeoffs that come with using new industry-disruptive services. The unique space libraries fill in providing training and equal access to new tech will remain highly relevant, timely, and necessary as the digital revolution reinvents major sectors of society.

Posted in Digital Divide, OITP, Privacy & Surveillance Tagged with: ,

CopyTalk webinar

Join us for our next installment of CopyTalk, August 7th at 2pm Eastern Time.

“International Copyright and Library Practices,” a one-hour presentation covering the basics of international copyright and how it applies to use of foreign works by libraries and in educational settings in the United States.

Janice T. Pilch is Copyright and Licensing Librarian and a member of the faculty of Rutgers University Libraries is our presenter. She is a former chair of the ALA OITP Copyright Education Subcommittee. From 2007-2011 she served as an International Copyright Advocate for the Library Copyright Alliance at the World Intellectual Property Organization and other international organizations to promote fair and equitable access to information. Janice served as Visiting Program Officer on International Copyright for ARL in 2009-2010. She is currently the U.S. representative to the IFLA Committee on Copyright and Other Legal Matters and chairs a permanent committee on copyright issues within the Association of Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies. There is no need to pre-register! Just show up on August 7, at 2pm Eastern http://ala.adobeconnect.com/copyright/


Posted in Copyright Tagged with:

GPO would like ALA feedback

Happy Friday!

In response to the comments GPO (Government Printing Office) received in the FDLP Forecast Study, GPO is moving forward with possible changes to the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) and have asked for feedback from ALA. Below is the information that the Washington Office received from Mary Alice Baish, Superintendent of Documents. If this is something that you have an interest in, I would love to hear your thoughts!


In accordance with the findings and recommendations from the FDLP Forecast Study, GPO is moving forward to implement Goal 2.1 to “Allow more flexibility for Federal depository libraries to manage their depository resources and services.” Specifically, GPO has taken two steps that focus on the following strategic objective:

2.1.1   Review and revise, as appropriate, Legal Requirements & Program Regulations of the Federal Depository Library Program allowing for flexibility.

I would greatly appreciate your feedback on the first action, which is for regional depository libraries. A Superintendent of Documents Public Policy Statement was drafted that would allow regionals to discard tangible depository materials under certain specified conditions. Authority for this action originates in 44 U.S.C. §1912:

Designated regional depository libraries will … “retain at least one copy of all Government publications either in printed or microfacsimile form (except those authorized to be discarded by the Superintendent of Documents).”

The second action affects selective depository libraries. Effective August 1, 2014, item numbers 0556-C and 1004-E will no longer be required but rather will be optional. This rescinds Regulation 10 in Legal Requirements & Program Regulations. As a result, selectives will have the ability to become “all electronic” depository libraries. In recent years, these item numbers have been used to distribute titles GPO deemed important for all depository libraries. GPO will continue to use these item numbers for this purpose, but with less frequency.”

I would be happy to hear from units or individual members (however you would prefer to reach out) by August 20th. I will be submitting ALA’s response to GPO no later than August 29th. Please send your comments to jmcgilvray@alawash.org.




Posted in Government Information, OGR Tagged with:

New Senate USA Freedom Act best chance for real surveillance law reform since 2001

On May 22, as DD reported, the House passed a seriously flawed and dangerously weakened version of the USA Freedom Act — a bill intended to end the “dragnet” bulk collection of Americans’ phone records by the NSA under the Patriot Act.  Immediately, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy vowed publicly to recraft the House bill into legislation that not only truly accomplished the bill’s stated intent, but went even further to protect privacy, improve government transparency, and give civil liberties advocates a real voice in secret FISA court proceedings.

On July 29 Chairman Leahy delivered both a bill (summarized here) and on his promise. The product of intensive and bi-partisan negotiations in both chambers, and with the Administration and intelligence community, the new USA Freedom Act (S. 2685) isn’t perfect.  It represents such a significant improvement over the House’s May bill and current law, however, that more than 40 civil liberties and business trade groups, ALA among them, endorsed the bill in a July 31 joint letter (initiated by the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute) calling on the leaders of both the Senate and House to pass it without dilution or delay.

ALA also joined 20 other organizations in a second letter coordinated by OpentheGovernment.org calling upon Senate Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner to bring S. 2685 to an immediate vote in both bodies without weakening its important safeguards, particularly those that will make the intelligence community’s activities and the compelled assistance of communications companies more transparent to the public and Congressional watchdogs.

In a separate press statement, ALA Washington Office Executive Director Emily Sheketoff said:

Libraries and librarians are and have been on the front lines of the fight to preserve the Fourth Amendment and foster government transparency in a post 9/11 world. The new USA Freedom Act introduced today by Sen. Leahy and others, if passed, would finally allow judges to assess all “gag orders” that accompany every so-called National Security Letter, empower new Special Advocates to meaningfully champion civil liberties in FISA Court proceedings upon judicial request and, once and for all, end the dragnet collection of US citizens’ telephone records under the Patriot Act.

With all Members of Congress poised at this writing to return home for Congress’ August “work period,” the time is right for librarians and library supporters everywhere to let every Congressman and Senator know through their local offices that we need a new USA Freedom Act and we need it now.

In the coming weeks, please stay tuned to District Dispatch and watch for legislative alerts with more details about how you can help pass the first real privacy and surveillance law reforms since the Patriot Act undermined our civil liberties in 2001.  The bottom line is simple.  As ALA’s statement also said:

While more to protect privacy still needs to be done . . . the USA Freedom Act of 2014 deserves to be passed quickly by Congress and signed by the President without delay; thirteen years to begin to restore Americans’ privacy is long enough.

Additional Resources

Senator Leahy’s Introductory Statement on the New USA Freedom Act

Posted in Library Advocacy

OITP hosts lunch discussion with Google Policy Fellows

Google Policy Fellows

Find more photos of the 2014 Google Policy Fellows lunch on flickr.

Last week, the Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) hosted a lunch and discussion for the 2014 Google Policy Fellows. Members from various policy organizations including the Center for Democracy and Technology, the National Consumers League, and Public Knowledge attended to learn more about ALA’s role in shaping technology policy and addressing library needs. Alan Inouye, Larra Clark, Marijke Visser and Charlie Wapner all shared their role and policy focus at OITP, and Jessica McGilvray and Jeffrey Kratz represented the Office for Government Relations (OGR), along with Communications Specialist Jacob Roberts. The lunch also gave the fellows a chance to ask questions and share their research interests at their respective host organizations in further detail. In many cases, interests and positions overlapped, and it was a good opportunity for sharing resources and perspectives on such topics as copyright, 3D printing, and net-neutrality in the non-commercial sphere.

The Google Policy Fellowship program is a great way to bring together passionate people engaged with aspects of technology policy ranging from privacy and disruptive innovation to E-rate and digital inclusion. One thing that was clear from the discussion around the lunch table was that the policy implications of information technology are complex, and organizations’ interests often converge and diverge on a case by case basis. The informal question-and-answer format also provided a good platform for addressing libraries’ roles and interests in technology and innovation. Although deeply involved in the policy world, many attendees were not aware of key aspects of the library’s evolution in the digital age, such as increasingly offering ebooks and makerspaces, which require close involvement with policies governing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and First Sale Doctrine. Overall, it was a good opportunity to expand the conversation, reflect on recent Federal Communications Commission decisions, and consider the future of libraries and other tech-related fields in the spectrum of current policy.

Posted in Washington Office News Tagged with:


Sign up today!
Advocate for America's libraries!
Authors for Library Ebooks
E-Content: the official blog for ALA's Digital Content Working Group
Complete Copyright: The new copyright guide for k-12 librarians and educators