There has been some discussion in this Blog on personalisation  and the other side of the coin – privacy.
Before going too much further there is another question to ask ‘What does the user want?’ or indeed ‘What does the user expect?’
I think we all have views on this as both consumers and providers of services. We like the idea of having our world tailored to suit us. When I get my morning coffee the conversation goes along the lines of
“Good Morning Nigel, sit down and we’ll bring it out to you”
“Good Morning and thanks Aiden”.
This works for me as I get my flat white without standing in a queue and without having to explain exactly what I want (at Cafe Blu the coffee is pretty good too!). If I go to another coffee shop they don’t know my name, I don’t know their names and they don’t know how I like my coffee so I don’t get the same service which means I keep going back to Café Blu. I am happy with this personalised service as both participants have knowingly and willingly engaged.
In the library world it is much the same story. Providing the borrower is able to feel in control then delivering a personalised service works well. For example Sorcer is able to provide highly specific and personal recommendations based on prior reading habits or what ‘Friends’ have read. None of the loan history, borrower names, friend’s names is being shared with third parties either to provide this service or to enrich other services. It is all within the library as the personalisation engine and recommendation engine are part of a unified product set.
As uses for data widen I think that it is very important to keep the balance between personalisation, sharing and privacy in balance. While something may seem to be a good idea at the time the consequences can have long term ramifications. Somewhat with a smile on my face I started to use a picture of me smoking a cigarette in front of a bonfire as my avatar in Sorcer demonstration sites. Even though I haven’t smoked for 7 years this is now the picture I am stuck with, whether I like it or not. Google has found it, Facebook knows it, so it is enshrined.