Librarians shout out for privacy revolution

Wed, May 5, 2010 at 9:08 am

    Librarians shout out for privacy revolution

    Librarians are calling for Americans to take charge of their privacy rights in a digital age during Choose Privacy Week May 2-8 at The American Library Association (ALA) is joined by friends and allies like the Campaign for Reader Privacy, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Electronic Freedom Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

    My friend Paula Hane (full disclosure: I am a card-carrying librarian and many of my friends are librarians too. Paula was the editor of my book in 2000)  in Information Today (full disclosure: Information Today was the publisher aforesaid book) said:

    Privacy Week comes at a particularly timely juncture in our Digital Age. New digital technologies and new company policies (such as the recent changes to Facebook) continuously test our privacy rights-just what do corporations and the government know about us and our personal lives? Momentum is now growing to ask questions and get discussions going.

    While the campaign continues the ALA’s long time advocacy of the privacy of library patrons’ use of books and online search tools from access by government agencies, the Choose Privacy Week “Privacy Myth Busters” leads off with Myth Number One:

    MYTH: Online services are totally free.

    TRUTH:  Many ostensibly free online services are paid for by advertising that relies on the collection of your personal information, including tracking your information searches.

    Free services like Google are tracking your searches to sell ads and collecting personal  information to support their business. ALA says it’s time to have a national discussion about these issues. It’s worth looking at the rest of the Myth Busters, too:

    MYTH: Government surveillance keeps us safe by stopping crime.

    TRUTH:  Surveillance cameras can help solve crimes after the fact, but rarely prevent crimes.

    MYTH: My personal data is secure with devices that use radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology, like my transit and ID cards.

    TRUTH:  Without privacy and security standards for RFID technology, RFID tags can be read without your knowledge or consent, gathering sensitive personal data.

    MYTH: Only people with something to hide need to worry about privacy.

    TRUTH:  The issue of privacy is not about what an individual has to hide, but what society stands to lose: freedom and control.

    MYTH:  Privacy costs too much.

    TRUTH:  A similar argument was made about safety in the 1950s, when automakers balked at consumer advocates’ calls for seat belts in cars. The Internet is maturing, and establishing privacy norms is a necessary part of making it a safe, sustainable, environment for information exchange.

    MYTH: Privacy standards will impede the free flow of information and make the Web less convenient.

    TRUTH:  The Web has proven to have enormous capacity to adapt technologically. It’s our social and political culture that must evolve to offer some form of self-determination about who is allowed to see what information.

    You can sign on to the librarian’s privacy revolution, but the site promises:

    We are serious about privacy. By signing into our vault, your identity will be safe and secure. But your sentiments will be made known in Washington.

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