Report finds Santa Cruz Public Libraries patrons' privacy is at risk

Report finds Santa Cruz Public Libraries patrons- privacy is at risk

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - Santa Cruz Public Libraries (SCPL) patrons' privacy could be at risk, according to a new Grand Jury report.

The Santa Cruz County Grand Jury released a report Monday that outlines an investigation into SCPL's use of third-party data analytics. 

The Grand Jury claims that SCPL needs to do a better job of informing library-goers of how their personal data is being used and give them more opportunity to consent to use of their personal data. This concerns Soquel resident Nancie Martinez who uses some online resources at the library.

“I think it should be kept private, if I’m just checking books out or whatever, it shouldn’t be anyone else’s information,” Martinez told KION.

Despite the library website listing privacy policies of the various third party vendors they use, the grand jury says it’s “inaccurate and incomplete”. The grand jury’s main concern revolves around the data analytics software called Gale Analytics on Demand that allows libraries to collect information on demographics and library activity of patrons. 

SCPL’s Director Susan Nemitz told KION that the library did use the software for a few experimental projects, but discontinued use after some employees expressed concerns.

The library collects information from borrowers like names, mailing addresses, birth dates, phone numbers and drivers license or ID information.

An Aptos Branch Library goer told KION with all the technology these days, privacy concerns are a think of the past.

“The public data at the library–my name, address, phone number–that’s just information that i have for my bank, my credit cards, and unless we can secure our privacy with those institutions, which we know hasn’t worked, I don’t see the point of privacy whatsoever.”

In a statement to KION, Library Director Susan Nemitz said “the library never gives out public information or sells it. We make contracts with private vendors and in those contracts, they cannot use that data or sell that data."

The grand jury is recommending that SCPL add to their privacy policy, implement a system for managing patron consent and review contracts for all third party digital services. They also think the libraries should offer workshops to patrons explaining how their use their information.

SCPL updated their privacy policy earlier this month, but they now plan to take concerns addressed in the report to a library advisory committee to work through the issues.


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