If we want to talk
about information ethics,
why talk about libraries and archives at all?





Ethics refers to well-founded standards of right and wrong that prescribe what humans ought to do, usually in terms of rights, obligations, benefits to society, fairness, or specific virtues.

(Source: Velasquez et al, Issues in Ethics)

So...where do libraries fit in a discussion of ethics?

{ a roadmap }

define ethics

review quotes about perspectives

of libraries & ethical considerations

examine Code of Ethics from

American Library Association (ALA)

take a closer read/deeper dive into

information ethics & how it relates to

everyday life

explore information ethics and

privacy concerns

in everyday life

& in libraries






"A library is a different kind of social reality (of the three dimensional kind), which by its very existence teaches a system of values beyond the fiscal."

- Zadie Smith


A non-profit purpose...

A site of aspiration...

"The library-as-zone could represent another “fugitive infrastructure,” “assembled to do different things, for different people, and according to different systems
of value
” – values defined not by profit, by the “growth machine,” by protectionism or patriarchy."

In embracing democratic values and ideals of social justice under threat in our broader culture, the library might represent a haven, a sanctuary, in which we can creatively re-envision and nurture our social and intellectual infrastructures."

-Shannon Mattern

(admittedly a hopeful + optimistic view!)

Alsoimportantlyan institution and a profession:

"On its face, it seems natural that libraries and
librarians should celebrate [their work]...Indeed, these librarians are working to save the democratic values of society as well as going above and beyond to serve the needs of their neighbors and communities.
However, when the
rhetoric surrounding librarianship borders on vocational and sacred language rather than acknowledging that librarianship is a profession or a discipline, and as an institution, historically and contemporarily flawed, we do ourselves a disservice."


- Fobazi Ettarh

J. Edgar Hoover

Director of the FBI from 1924-1972. Best known for COINTELPRO surveillance of thousands of US citizens, particularly POCs and activists.

Audre Lorde

Poet, activist, professor, publisher. Author of Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, Sister Outsider, The Cancer Journals, and many other books.

what do they have in common?

{ they were both library workers }

ALA Code of Ethics, 1939-Present

Discuss with your partner:

What sense do you get for librarianship at
each of these times?

What are some of the most important continuities
between the two documents?
(i.e. don't say "libraries" :)

Now take a look at both documents directly (not via SameDiff).

How similar is it to what you expected based on your initial analysis?

What do you notice looking at the full text (that you couldn't see through distant analysis)?

Information Ethics & Property

concept map/word association


Information Ethics & Property

How might the meaning of property change within a digital environment and what are the ethical implications of that change?

Nissenbaum Discussion Questions

How might John Perry Barlow’s assertion that information technology presents situations where “goods can be stolen an infinite number of times” challenge a traditional conceptualization of property?

Privacy is not about technology -
it's about people.

Episode #53: Share Your Location with ICE? (02/13/20)
High-tech surveillance and the market for data

Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness
Simone Browne (2015)
Duke University Press

Note to Self  |  Episode: What We Learned from Grandpa's FBI File
Surveillance politics, past and present

So...what can you do?

2. Protect your browsing history
Visualizes and blocks tracking websites

Privacy Badger  (free from Electronic Frontier Foundation)

3. Learn as you go
Browser extension that helps make sense of the privacy policy and other terms and conditions on YouTube, Twitter, etc.

1. Start small

Easy adjustments to help share (or not!) your data more intentionally:  Data Detox Kit (Tactical Tech & Firefox)
• Try: Control Your Smartphone Data or Smartphone Habits


caveat!  This extension will
cause some websites to behave oddly at times.
so: If you have trouble with a website, disable Privacy Badger and reload.

What else can you do?

Deepen your understanding of how
the web works:

Digital Library Federation Privacy Literacy

  (crossing the US border, organizing movements, shopping online)

Explore information security scenarios to learn how the stakes and considerations vary for individuals with different identities, contexts, and needs—and what steps they/you can take.

A First Look at Digital Security (Access Now)

  (meet a student, a journalist, a civil rights organizer, and an activist)

Don't Panic:

A First Look at Digital Security


Access Now


Manuel Velasquez, Claire Andre, Thomas Shanks, S.J., and Michael J. Meyer. (2010 [1987]). What is Ethics? A definition of ethics in terms of standards such as rights and fairness. Issues in Ethics, 1:1. https://www.scu.edu/ethics/ethics-resources/ethical-decision-making/what-is-ethics/


Backstory, J Edgar Hoover

New York Amsterdam News, Audre Lorde

Information Ethics (Library Internship Seminar, Feb 21, 2020)

By Swarthmore Reference

Information Ethics (Library Internship Seminar, Feb 21, 2020)

Seminar session on information ethics and privacy (Lorin Jackson and Sarah Elichko)

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