5 Days to Human Rights Day: Celebrating Privacy

5 Days to Human Rights Day

The third in our series of daily blogs leading up to the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights focuses on privacy. It underlines the vital role that libraries play in protecting and enhancing privacy for all.

Privacy is a fundamental human right enshrined in Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On the 70th anniversary of its adoption by the United Nations in 1948, we are reminded that “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks”.

 Privacy is the human right that protects us from unwarranted intrusion, enhancing the autonomy of our actions. If we assume that no one is observing, our interactions are freer, more sincere. On the other hand, if we feel we are not completely free in our thoughts and actions, we may hold back crucial elements of ourselves.

 The right to privacy, therefore, “protects our subjectivity from the pervasive efforts of those actors that strive to render our actions fixed, transparent and predictable. For this reason, privacy is also an indispensable feature of a democracy” (Cohen 2016).

 Libraries play a powerful role in the promotion and protection of privacy. The anniversary of the Universal Declaration is a useful opportunity to remember their relevance. IFLA itself has a position on the integral role of privacy in protecting freedom of information and freedom of expression, through its Statement on Privacy in the Library Environment

 Other libraries have also published toolkits and guides on how institutions can protect the privacy of users against ongoing attacks. In their everyday work, libraries support this right. They look to follow best practices by limiting user data collection and pushing partners (commercial or otherwise) to narrow personal data collection.

 They also work to give their users the knowledge and skills required to protect themselves. And they partner with other organisations to advance relevant legislation and improve services and offers to users.

 This important anniversary should therefore remind us that privacy can and should be protected as an essential right for human beings and libraries can help supporting its realization through education, digital literacy, and tirelessly advocating on best practices. 

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