Skip to content
Dec 4 / Erin Vader

A Brief Overview of Information Policy

Written by Tiffany Sonnier

A Definition

Information policy is becoming more relevant in today’s information society.  Information policy is the laws, policies, regulations, technologies and practices that impact the exchange of information, both public and private.  Furthermore, information policy supports the decisions related to the use, creation, preservation, storage and security of information.  Information policy has its tendrils in many disciplines, including information science, law and public policy.

A History

The shift to an information society paved the way for the study of information policy.  Over the last half of the twentieth century, knowledge has become visible and easily accessed over the Internet.  Anyone can create and disseminate information.  The government plays a role in the creation and dissemination of information.  In fact, the way that the government controls information has led to an information policy.  In An Introduction to Information Policy(2007), Sandra Braman writes that one of the most ancient forms of governance includes information policy “in the extent to which governments deliberately, explicitly, and consistently control information creation, processing, flows, and use to exercise power” (p. 1).  Social trends, economic developments, and legal developments influence information policy as well.  It is a study that is continuously changing.  And it needs to be in order to keep up with the changing technology and information culture.

A Description

The realms of information policy encompass the sharing, protection, and privacy of knowledge, data, and information.  While arguments abound regarding the classification of knowledge, data and information, the three terms are listed here for simplicity’s sake.  Information policy is influenced by the concerns and constraints of people and the technology used for information.  It is also influenced by the sources of power and primary stakeholders.  InToward a Model of Information Policy Analysis (2003), Maxwell indicates that the four realms of information policy compete to take precedence.  These realms include the sovereign, transformation, production, and global.  The sovereign realm focuses on the expectations between government and its citizens; the transformation realm focuses on the actions of individuals; the production realm focuses on the relationship between the producers of information and their control over information ownership; and globalization involves the relationship between states and corporations.

A Review

Information policy is a complex system of ideas.  It consists of many separate issues that remain a part of the same conversation.  These issues range from access to networks and service providers, privacy rights, and intellectual property.

Public libraries consistently deal with information policy issues.  Recently, they have begun using RFID (radio frequency identification) tags to track books and other library materials.  Libraries use RFID tags to increase productivity (for inventory and handling) and for security issues.  However, as security strengthens, privacy weakens.  In the context of technological innovation, it is important to remember how it will affect the privacy of both individuals and organizations on wider a scale.  In Technology, security, and individual privacy: New tools, new threats, and new public perceptions (2005), Lee Strickland states, “there has been and continues to be a recurring conflict between the need for security by the state and the interest in personal privacy by the people” (p. 226).  It is possible for detailed information of library users’ activities to be collected by other agencies and/or organizations.

When libraries implement this technology, are the users made aware of the implications to their personal privacy?  An information policy should explain how this technology affects users and whether their personal information is shared, how long it is stored, etc.  Strickland emphasizes the need for creating such a policy and states that a good policy focuses on “simplicity and effective communication to the concerned parties – the customer, the collecting entity, and the business partners” (p. 232).  He further argues that maintaining good privacy policy is both good policy and good business.  Librarians and information professionals have an obligation to ensure that such policy exists and remains intact.     

A Future

As public libraries evolve to keep pace with the advances in technology, it is essential that the information policies remain up to date to meet the needs of its users.  21st Century librarians face many challenges in this area.  Firstly, it is important for library professionals to ask how information will be stored, organized, and disseminated.  Additionally, they will need to address issues of privacy when handling individual information of their users.  Library professionals will likely need to collaborate with local, state, and even federal governments, as well as users and stakeholders in order to create an effective information policy for the storage.

Librarians will also continue to face questions of intellectual property, who creates information, and who has the right to access or distribute information.  Copyright is a confusing aspect of information policy.  Add to it the complexity of information created online in the form of blogs or other social media posts, and the information professional is left with a lot of uncertainty.  An information policy should, at the very least, attempt to address such questions.

Finally, it will be important to understand the role of government in information policy.  How government will intervene with respect to access to information and the dissemination of information are essential questions to ask.  For instance, some information may lack authenticity and thus, its publication may cause further problems than if left unpublished.  It will also raise questions into who is responsible for keeping users’ individual information private – the organization or the government.

While all of the above are necessary questions to address in the near future, it is clear to see just how complex information policy is for all involved.  Collaboration between the many entities is key in creating an effective information policy.

References

Braman, S. (2007). Change of State: Information, Policy, and Power. First Monday, 12 (4), np. Retrieved fromhttp://firstmonday.org/issues/issue12_4/braman2/index.html

Maxwell, T. A. (2003). Toward a model of information policy analysis: Speech as an illustrative example. First Monday, 8 (6), np.

Strickland, L. S., & Hunt, L. E. (2005). Technology, security, and individual privacy: New tools, new threats, and new public perceptions. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 56(3), 221-234. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.proxy.lib.wayne.edu/docview/231414963?accountid=14925