The Brief

Balancing Privacy and Public Benefit

One of the most complex, fast developing and least understood aspects of how we engage with digital technology is the trade-off we make between maintaining our personal privacy and giving others access to data about us in order to provide us with better goods and services.
Data sharing has the potential to improve public services, but there are legitimate concerns about privacy. In partnership with Involve and the Understanding Patient Data team at the Wellcome Trust, we are exploring how government, civil society and advocacy groups make sense of, and balance, the potential risk and reward of data sharing across public services.

Online data privacy and the role of public libraries

Public libraries have played an essential role in championing access to information and supporting the development of digital skills. The Carnegie UK Trust is working with the CILIP The Library and Information Association to explore how public libraries can help individuals make informed decisions about their online privacy and security as they seek to maximise the benefits of the online world.

As part of this work, The Trust looked internationally for areas of best practice. North American public libraries and librarians have been high profile advocates for citizen’s rights with regards to data privacy and have played a significant role in enabling citizens to better understand online data privacy. To explore how librarians in the UK and Ireland might develop a similarly enhanced role on this public policy issue, The Trust hosted an international study visit to New York to explore the theme of Public Libraries and Online Data Privacy.

The study group consisted of key stakeholders from across the UK and Ireland library, policy and technology sectors:

  • Brian Ashley, Director, Libraries, Arts Council England
  • Aude Charillon, Library and Information Officer, Newcastle Libraries and Carnegie Partner
  • Ciara Eastell, OBE, Chief Executive, Libraries Unlimited, former President of Society of Chief Librarians
  • Neil MacInnes, President, Society of Chief Librarians
  • Ryan Meade, Public Affairs and Communications Consultant, Ireland
  • Will Perrin, Founder, Talk About Local
  • Catherine Stihler, MEP, European Parliament
  • Albert Tucker, Trustee, Carnegie UK Trust
  • Martyn Wade, Chair, Committee on Freedom of Access to Information and Freedom of Expression, International Federation of Library Associations and Trustee, CILIP The Library and Information Association
  • Trisha Ward, Assistant Director, Libraries NI

The group met with individuals from 12 organisations including New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics, the American Library Association, Public Library Association and Aspen Institute. The study visit also included a seminar ‘Privacy in a Digital Age’ with acclaimed security technologist Bruce Schneier, which can be viewed in full here.

The Trust is currently publishing a blog series by the participants which reflects key learnings, themes and points of interest from the trip.

Highlight videos from the seminar are also available and you can follow on twitter at #DataPrivacyNY.


Seminar videos courtesy of the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs.

Speak To

Douglas White

Jenny Peachey

Gail Irvine




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