Data, Privacy, and the Library

pii 1 - data about a user

  • Name
  • Physical/email address
  • Date of birth
  • User record number
  • Library barcode
  • Demographic information, including grade, year, major, and department

pii 2 - a user’s activities

  • Search & circulation histories
  • Computer/wifi sessions
  • Email and chat transcripts
  • IP address; type of operating system or browser (digital fingerprint)
  • eResource access
  • Program attendance


User data collected by libraries can be divided into two types of Personally Identifiable Information (PII): data about you, and data that is linked to you.

Each category contains data that can identify a real world individual. You can identify a person just by their activities; researchers have been able to identify individuals from data sets that only contain their search queries.


Privacy and data protection

If you are interested in understanding more about user data collection broadly and the importance of privacy data protection on human rights, check out this video.