A Retreat from the Panoptic: One Public Library's Experience with Video Surveillance
27 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2014 Last revised: 1 Apr 2015
Date Written: 2013
This paper, originally presented at a Special Workshop on Information Privacy at iConference 2013 in Fort Worth, Texas on Feb. 12, 2013, presents the findings of a qualitative case study examining why one public library installed video surveillance systems and then later reversed course and completely removed the previously installed systems. We found that the library initially installed the system as a response to specific incidents of crime without central administrative oversight, and that the removal was prompted by deteriorating relationships with local police departments over the library’s position that the video footage was exempt from public disclosure under the state’s library records privacy law. The library system subsequently removed all of their cameras in 2011, claiming the cameras were not in sync with library commitments to intellectual freedom and patron privacy, despite the fact that library staff expressed strong interest in retaining the cameras and were concerned about staff safety and crime prevention. We also found evidence of surveillance creep.
Keywords: surveillance, privacy, library, freedom of information, access to information, law, qualitative research, case study
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