Tag Archive for ‘privacy’

privacy is not an option

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.


director facebooking

Out of all social software sites I think I’ve learned the most from Flickr. I’ve also spent the most time using Flickr, likely because it solves a problem or fills a need for me. It is a fantastic social creative outlet. Wanting to learn more about Facebook, I’ve been investing more effort in it.

This afternoon I friended one of my employees.

I thought connecting with some of my staff on Facebook would not only be fun but would also be an exercise in transparency. My Facebook profile might give them a more full picture of who I am, what I do, and what I’m into. If they were at all curious. It wasn’t until I made the friends request that I remembered that transparency works both ways and that Adam, perhaps, wouldn’t be comfortable with me being in his Facebook network even though we get along really well face to face.

It turns out that he accepted the request. No surprise there, right? I called Adam as the library was closing, told him what I was thinking about and that I might blog about it. I asked him if he had any reactions to my request, and that if he thought it was weird he should be totally honest. It also turns out that he doesn’t really use Facebook and this informed his reaction to my request. Since there’s nothing really at stake for him, my friending him isn’t extremely relevant. One social software site I know he uses is goodreads. I should ask him how his answer might change if we were talking about that site instead of Facebook. Or maybe he’ll tell us in a comment.

Considering these issues tonight I’ve come up with a few tips for Facebooking (or using other social software sites) among library staff, particularly for supervisor to staff situations.

Ask first and state your intentions up front.
Is it for a library project? If so, is it mandatory? If it is, give employees the chance to make a special account for the project because they have the right to keep their private life private And their work life private. Is it just for fun? Being upfront about this, and not being selective about invites, will prevent awkwardness and potentially creepy situations.

Make it clear if Facebook (or whatever) is “work”.
Clearly most library workers have other things to do besides be on social networking sites (SNS) all day. However, encouraging library staff to play, have fun and experiment should included SNS. Especially if it is something you started!

Try new sites.
If a coworker thinks you’ll enjoy a site that you’re not using, give it a whirl. Explore how it might relate to library services and have a conversation. Be honest if you don’t like it too.

Putting some effort into SNS *does* lead to learning, eh? One little friending and I’ve got all this great stuff to think about!


orwell’s house watched by big brother

Within 200 yards of Orwell’s flat there 32 CCTV cameras monitoring London.

See George Orwell, Big Brother is watching your house from ‘This is London.’

Rethinking privacy, anyone?



You may have read that America Online recently altered their Terms of Service for AOL Instant Messenger (and their other services). The good news is that the Internet community kinda flipped out, raised some Cain, and they changed/clarified their policy.

You can imagine that when it came out that the TOS in place since February read, “You waive any right to privacy” people were alarmed. IMming librarians should have been included in this group. There’s more to the old TOS that was scary. Read:

Although you or the owner of the Content retain ownership of all right, title and interest in Content that you post to any AIM Product, AOL owns all right, title and interest in any compilation, collective work or other derivative work created by AOL using or incorporating this Content. In addition, by posting Content on an AIM Product, you grant AOL, its parent, affiliates, subsidiaries, assigns, agents and licensees the irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide right to reproduce, display, perform, distribute, adapt and promote this Content in any medium. You waive any right to privacy. You waive any right to inspect or approve uses of the Content or to be compensated for any such uses.

That’s some frightening stuff. I haven’t read through the new TOS because they are quite long, but here they are if you’re interested. AIM Terms of Service.

From cnet: AOL clarifies IM privacy guarantee


also sprach imwatching.net

The guy that started IMWatching.net saw my post about his site and sent me an email. He is a student at MIT and IMWatching is a school project. There is a bit more on the site now, including these statements regarding privacy in the FAQ.

I inquired about the response he has seen, and he reported that about 1000 people are watching nearly 6000 buddies through IMWatching.

What’s more, his mother is the director of a middle school media center, so he enjoyed reading about his creation in the context of libraries.