Choose Privacy Week

Today we kick off the ALA's Choose Privacy Week, running from May 1-7.

Privacy is one of those big issues for libraries, even if the patrons are not always aware of how important keeping their privacy is to us.  Mostly it comes up when someone wants to us to look up someone else's record or we insist on ID when they don't have their library card on hand.  I promise that those policies exist for purposes other than to frustrate you.  Actually, librarians have earned a bit of an "uppity" reputation when they argued back against government requests for patron records under the Patriot Act.  We deliberately do not keep a history of what you have borrowed unless we're waiting for payment.  And privacy does go beyond that, we want patrons to feel safe, and sometimes that is keeping what they borrow from an abusive ex (or hopefully soon-to-be ex) or allowing someone to research topics of a personal nature as a private activity.

The more we engage in activities online, the less private our lives become.  Even without logging in we create a trail of activity as we navigate websites, and the tracking continues to grow more persistent and invasive.  The core of social networking is sharing, and the protections of privacy settings only do so much to restrict your sharing to those you actually want to share with.  A poorly thought out public posting of opinion or reaction has cost people their employment.

So why do libraries care about individuals protecting their privacy?  Libraries are community and education hubs, we also provide the main method internet access for many people.  Additionally, public outcry has been heard when legislation like SOPA and CISPA appears, but the outcry must continue.  CISPA, as a whole or in pieces, will show up again.

This isn't an issue of "having something to hide."  Even people with nothing to hide can run afoul of overzealous screening of farmed data, and this data collected is used to shape future interactions with us.  Some of the data uses do benefit us, but others will hurt us or leave us vulnerable.  I find the data collected a security risk to one's identity.  Think of all the issues with security in apps, and then actually read what you're allowing when you install an app on a device that you carry.

Additional Reading:
CISPA not dead 
Who Has  Your Back? (EFF)


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