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Do RFIDs (radio frequency identifiers) provide new ethical dilemmas for librarians and information professionals?

Thornley, Clare and Ferguson, Stuart and Weckert, John and Gibb, Forbes (2011) Do RFIDs (radio frequency identifiers) provide new ethical dilemmas for librarians and information professionals? International Journal of Information Management, 31 (6). pp. 546-555. ISSN 0268-4012

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Abstract

This paper provides an analysis of the current and potential ethical implications of RFID technology for the library and information professions. These issues are analysed as a series of ethical dilemmas, or hard-to-resolve competing ethical obligations, which the librarian has in relationship to information objects, library users and the wider social and political environment or state. A process model of the library is used as a framework for the discussion to illustrate the relationship between the different participants in the library system and it is argued that ethical analysis should involve the identification of future developments as well as current issues. The analysis shows that RFIDs do currently pose some dilemmas for librarians in terms of the conflicts between efficient service, privacy of users and an obligation to protect the safety of society as a whole, and that these are likely to become more problematic as the technology develops. This paper is part 2 of a series of papers on RFIDs and the library and information professions.