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Protecting Our Privacy

RIT graduate student Jennifer Freer combined her own personal experiences and research in politics to detail The Patriot Act and how the government can now gain access to the private records of those who utilize public libraries.

Freer, a research librarian with the Wallace Center and master's student in Communication and Media Technologies, presented her research as part of the Richard A. Clarke National Scholarly Monograph Contest. The competition's primary focus centers on the events of September 11th, national security, and counterterrorism. The contest's main goal is to promote critical thinking and enhance analysis of American public policy and the subsequent events that took place after the attacks.

Freer won third-place in the competition for the monograph entitled: "The Patriot Act and the Public Library: An Unanticipated Threat to National Security." It included a $5,000 cash award and allowed her to attend a special awards ceremony in Washington D.C., which also featured students from Columbia and Georgetown.

Freer's paper outlined how the Patriot Act has allowed the government to override constitutional privacy and utilize library records to search personal information without consent or a warrant. Freer also argues that privacy is a central component of a library's records management and dissemination activities. The reduction in privacy caused by the Patriot Act could therefore reduce the use of the library services by citizens.

Freer, who previously worked as a corporate librarian in New York City, was personally affected by the September 11th attacks which makes the recognition she is receiving even more satisfying. She was forced out of New York due to a corporate and public library freeze immediately following the attacks and, had to restart her career in Rochester.

"But it's funny how things come full circle," Freer says. "How one of the worst things that has happened to me led to professional success in the end."

"Competing and winning with students from Columbia University and Georgetown University is a great reflection on the quality of education I have received here at RIT." Freer continues.

Freer also states that RIT does not just benefit with a boost in its reputation, but it provides other students with the knowledge that what they do in the classroom can impact their lives outside of the classroom.

"This shows students that the things they do in a class can lead to opportunities beyond receiving a grade."

Protecting Our Privacy

From left to right, Craig Smith, Director of the Center for First Amendment Rights, Congressman Robert E. Andrews and Steven Markoff, Chairman and C.E.O. of the A-Mark Financial Corporation and Richard Clarke stand with RIT research librarian Jennifer Freer at the awards ceremony for the Richard A. Clarke National Scholarly Monograph Contest in Washington DC..