- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Libraries around the nation have joined together to pressure lawmakers to clamp down on the federal government’s ability to demand data on the books that borrowers’ read and the Internet sites that visitors search.

The Patriot Act bolstered the FBI’s power to demand that libraries give up data on users. And some are seeing the situation in recent years as soaring out of control, creating a “climate of concern” of federal overreach, The Hill reported..

“You need to have some freedom to learn about what you think is important without worrying about whether it ends up in some FBI file,” said Alan Inouye, director of the Office for Information Technology Policy at the American Library Association, in The Hill.

Lynn Bradley, director of the ALA’s Office of Government Relations, said National Security Agency officials have gone way beyond policing and entered a realm where they have an “almost ravenous hunger” for information, The Hill reported.

Documents leaked by contractor Edward Snowden indicate the NSA has been collecting large amounts of information related to Internet activity and telephone calls — metadata that perfectly fits in with what libraries generally record.

“Libraries are all about metadata,” Mr. Inouye said in The Hill report. “We’re talking about the information patterns of people. If that’s not personal, I don’t know what is.”

It’s not known whether any libraries have received information requests from the NSA. Libraries, like Internet and communications companies, are prohibited by law from revealing that information.

“We don’t know what we don’t know,” Ms. Bradley said in The Hill article.