Teaching privacy?

With the word “privacy” appearing in both online and offline discussions of how we live in 2014, how do we make time to analyze and consider, and then put into use, the very best practices we can in libraryland? Here are a few signposts from recent weeks that limn the current thinking:

Back in May, Barbara Fister wrote a “Peer to Peer” opinion piece at Library Journal taking up that issue; to date, the online piece has received a total of four comments, including one from Ms. Fister acknowledging the points made to her original post and summing up for the next question. 

At the OCLC Symposium held at ALA’s Annual Conference, in June, several audience members pushed back against Daniel Obodovski’s suggestions that data collected as libraries do business might prove useful to harvest to support the expansion of knowledge afforded by the Internet of Things. Expanding local library awareness of user needs, wants, and satisfaction levels, done anonymously, was agreeable; suggesting that libraries become purveyors of data collected from our communities drew a resoundingly negative reaction.

The day before Independence Day, Cory Doctorow published a summary of findings that indicate NSA surveillance seems to be keyed to those online who actively seek privacy information there. That would suggest that as librarians, with a duty to explore as well as maintain privacy standards, we stand to put ourselves in the path of having ours exploited.

So, how do we approach a topic that is getting hotter in the public mind even while we become increasingly aware of how slippery the “it” of privacy is? In essence, how do we teach good online privacy hygiene without introducing the kind of damage hand washing efficacy has suffered with the overuse of antibacterial scrubs for frequent use? 

How are you broaching privacy with your staff? With kids in your community? With adults seeking technical assistance? What tools might be useful for digging our way to daylight? Let us all hear!



Categories: Evaluating information, Keeping Up, Library Culture

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