In 1890, Samuel D. Warren and Louis Brandeis declared that "Recent inventions and business methods" made clear the need to secure for the individual "the right 'to be let alone'" because new technology had "invaded the sacred precincts of private and domestic life", making it simple for that which was whispered in the closet to be proclaimed from the house-tops. Their opinion has only become more relevant in the age of mobile technology.
The rapid proliferation of e-readers and mobile devices has opened new information opportunities for library patrons and new platforms for library services. Unfortunately, mobile devices make it almost effortless for companies, governments, and criminals to surreptitiously gather massive amounts of personal information.
Whether it's Amazon keeping tabs on the reading habits of Kindle users or popular apps like Angry Birds gathering personally identifiable information, the private and domestic lives of patrons are regularly invaded by the devices they use most. Even when the information collected is supposed to be anonymous, studies of data sets collected by AOL and Netflix have shown that individuals can still be identified.
Recent revelations of mobile-specific surveillance operations by the NSA and British intelligence further underscore the importance of protecting patron privacy.
As librarians work to explore the benefits of mobile devices, it is paramount that we continue to ensure our patrons' right to be let alone.