When talking about social software, especially MySpace and Facebook, I get asked about privacy a lot. It often goes like this: “What are these people doing sharing this information about themselves!? Anyone can look at it! Oh.My.God!” And I often feel like saying, “Duh, that’s the point.” This is not a bug on the web, it is a feature.
The profession has put a lot of effort into keeping patron circulation records private and this is a good thing. These efforts however, have put some librarians in a place where they can’t imagine patrons *wanting* to share their circulation records. Or their favorite band. Or their hopes, dreams and goals. These librarians are saddened, nervous and even disgusted about people sharing information about themselves online.
“Those darn kids” is what I hear when librarians talk about teaching people Proper Online Behavior. I’m on the fence about libraries spending time doing this work because I’m afraid it is often done in a top down, we-know-what-is-best-for-you manner. To be done well, this work has to be done with people as collaborators rather than safety police helping the ignorant.
But I’m even on the fence about libraries doing this work even if it is done in a positive manner. Why? It is largely a waste of time. People, including young ones, know much more about online safety than some like to admit. They also know that to a certain extent, fully participating in the 21st century means forgetting about privacy. This idea has trickled all the way down to their t-shirts.