I’m leading a webinar on Facebook tomorrow, and because of that, I’ve been thinking a lot about changes I’m seeing in online privacy.
So, as librarians, we historically have been defenders of our patrons’ right to privacy. It’s in our Code of Ethics: “We protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted.”
On the opposite end of that are some pretty hip social media companies, like Google Plus and Facebook. Those two companies seem to have an unstated goal of making our world open and transparent … or at least, as open and transparent as we want to be.
Facebook does this by setting default privacy settings to Public. Google Plus does this (at least for now) by requiring us to use our real names on accounts.
Interestingly enough, some of our library tools are pushing for openness in different ways, too. Here are two examples of that:
- Many of us are familiar with the Overdrive/Amazon deal. Amazon knows what your patrons have checked out, because they send them an offer to buy the ebook 3 days before it’s due. Amazon is, in essence, using what us librarians consider private info that we would never share, to sell ebooks to our patrons. It’s actually a handy thing to do… but flies in the face of our privacy ethics.
- My library is in the process of moving to Polaris for our ILS/Library catalog. One really cool feature we’ll be getting is public lists. As a patron, I will be able to keep a list of books that I’ve read … and make that public, embed it on my blog, etc, via an RSS feed. It’s an opt-in feature, but still… very public, and very different from what us libraries have traditionally done.
This brings up quite a few questions in my mind:
- Are libraries ready for opt-in/opt-out transparency?
- Are we ready to check TOS agreements to catch and discuss things like that with vendors?
- Some of us are bound by local or state laws on privacy. Are we ready to have discussions about those laws?
- At the ALA level … are we ready to start discussing potential changes to our code of ethics and other privacy-driven discussions at a national level?
- Are you ready to protect your own level of privacy
- Are you ready to learn privacy settings in each online tool, and teach these to your customers?