Protecting Privacy on Library Websites: Critical Technologies and Implementation Trends

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  • Description
  • Table of Contents
  • About the authors

This issue of Library Technology Reports (vol. 55, no. 7), Protecting Privacy on Library Websites: Critical Technologies and Implementation Trends, explores the issues and technologies needed to deploy a library website with adequate protections for the privacy of those who visit. Without the implementation of standard encryption components, the online information-seeking activities of website visitors are vulnerable to exposure. Even when a site is properly encrypted, privacy can be circumvented through tracking agents placed on the site for analytics or advertising. Following discussion of the technical issues with implications for user privacy, this report includes the results of a broad study of the state of practice for these privacy-related technologies among public and academic libraries in the United States. This study reveals great progress among these libraries in the strengthening of privacy on their websites, though substantial gaps remain.

Chapter 1—Introduction

  • Libraries Value Privacy
  • Privacy versus Personalized Services
  • Protection of Online Information-Seeking Activities
  • Note

Chapter 2—Key Technologies with Implications for Privacy

  • Need for Encryption of Websites
  • HTTPS for Identity Validation
  • Low Threshold of Difficulty and Expense
  • Advancing to HTTPS Everywhere
  • Meeting the HTTPS Deadline
  • HTTPS and Only HTTPS
  • Challenges in Implementing HTTPS
  • Mandate for Libraries
  • Analytics and Advertising Networks
  • Measuring Website Use through Analytics Services
  • Google Analytics
  • Multiple Tracking Code Options
  • Advertising Networks and Social Media
  • Notes

Chapter 3—The Current State of Practice

  • Methodology
  • Data Sources
  • Data Structure
  • Initial Data Collection and Cleanup
  • Automated Link Checking
  • Manual Spot Checking
  • Website Validation Script
  • Findings: The Current State of Practice

Chapter 4—Looking Forward

  • Privacy by Design
  • Strategies for Achieving Privacy-Respecting Services
  • Ongoing Research and Analysis
  • Additional References and Resources

Marshall Breeding

Marshall Breeding is an independent consultant, speaker, and author. He is the creator and editor of Library Technology Guides ( and the online directory of libraries. He is the editor for Smart Libraries Newsletter, published by ALA TechSource, and has authored the annual Library Systems Report, published in American Libraries since 2014. He has also edited and authored several books, articles, and book chapters; was formerly the director for innovative technology and research for the Vanderbilt University Library; and regularly teaches workshops and gives presentations both throughout the United States and internationally at library conferences.

Library Technology Reports

Published by ALA TechSource, Library Technology Reports helps librarians make informed decisions about technology products and projects. Library Technology Reports publishes eight issues annually and provides thorough overviews of current technology. Reports are authored by experts in the field and may address the application of technology to library services, offer evaluative descriptions of specific products or product classes, or cover emerging technology. Find out more information on this publication and how you can subscribe here.