Protecting Online Privacy

Privacy Key

Since 9/11, the surveillance of individuals (both foreign and domestic born)  has become a major factor in national security. After 13 years, it seems that we are no safer than before the 9/11 attacks, and the current surveillance tactics conducted by organizations like the National Security Agency (NSA) only  cause indignation from the public towards the government. Do we really have to sacrifice our right to privacy and free expression for safety and national security ?

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) “the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance has greatly expanded in the years since September 11th, 2001”. Recent disclosures have shown that the government, enabled by the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendment Act,  has been tracking calls of innocent American citizens and spying on international calls, text messages, emails, and web data (aclu.org). It not just government agencies, however, who are monitoring communication patterns and technology usage, corporations have also been exploiting consumer’s information for their own gain. Figures from corporate America, such as Scott McNealy (CEO of Sun Microsystems) and Mark Zuckerberg (the founder of Facebook) have claimed that privacy doesn’t matter in the digital age, yet research shows that this is not the case. It is not surprising that people like McNealy and Zuckerberg would try to make these claims, since these are individuals who make their money off of gathering personal data, repackaging it, and selling it to advertisers (Magi, 2013). Contrary to what corporate figures claim, privacy does matter and it is a major concern for people, as evidenced by the fact that: there are laws or attorney general opinions protecting library records; at the federal level, there is talk about creating a consumer privacy bill of rights, over the past five years Facebook users have expressed outrage over the website’s features and policies that clearly violated privacy, and an increasing number of scholarly studies show that people are concerned about their privacy (Magi, 2013).

Such practices, which were mainly caused by the passage of the Patriot Act, are viewed as unsettling by librarians and information professionals, because the right to access information and the freedom of privacy is fundamental to their profession (Shaffer, 2014). In fact, Article IV of the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights “affirms the ethical imperative to provide unrestricted access to information and to guard against impediments to open inquiry” (www.ala.org/advocacy). Breaching users’ private or confidential data is viewed as an impediment to open inquiry, and if users recognize that than the freedom of open inquiry no longer exists (ala.org/advocacy).

The surveillance and callous collection of personal data is an unsettling situation, which is why some librarians and information professionals are stepping in to help raise awareness and provide users tips on how to improve their online privacy. For example, IT Librarian of the Watertown Free Public Library in Massachusetts, Alison Macrina, (along with ACLU Massachusetts) conducted a series of privacy workshops for librarians all over the  state. As a result, multiple Massachusetts libraries have taken different actions to protect patrons’ privacy such as: installing the Tor browser, coordinating computer privacy classes, and installing privacy protecting plug-ins from the Firefox browser (boingboing.net). Other privacy defense tactics librarians and information professionals can adopt include: adopting the ALA Code of Ethics and Bill of Rights, writing and adopting a library privacy policy, not sharing the names of users or the materials they want, calling to reform the Patriot Act, and being wary of government and law enforcement intrusion (Magi, 2013).

References:

American Civil Liberties Union (n.d.). Rein in the surveillance state. Retrieved from https://www.aclu.org/rein-surveillance-state.

American Library Association (n.d.). Privacy: An interpretation of the library bill of rights. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/librarybill/interpretations/privacy.

Macrina. A & Glaser. A.  (2014, Sept. 13). Radical librarianship: How ninja librarians are ensuring patrons’ electronic privacy. Retrieved from http://boingboing.net/2014/09/13/radical-librarianship-how-nin.html.

Magi, T.J. (2013). A fresh look at privacy- Why does it matter, who cares, and what should librarians do about it? Indiana Libraries, 32(1), 37-41. Retrieved from http://scholarworks.uvm.edu/libfacpub/6/.

Shaffer, C. (2014). The patriot act a decade later: A literature review of librarian responses and strategies. Indiana Libraries, 33(1). Retrieved from http://http://journals.iupui.edu/index.php/IndianaLibraries/article/view/3485.

Library and Information Science Graduates and Jobs

Job HuntingI thought I would start off this blog by talking about what every library student, myself included, has on their minds, which is  jobs. Some days I just think that I have probably made a mistake in going to library school, and I know I’m not the only one who thinks this. The library field has gotten quite a bit of bad press over the last few years. In 2011 Forbes put out a slide show outlining the best and worst Master’s degrees to get, library and information science was No. 1 in the top ten worst Master’s degree programs. The good news, however, is that there are plenty of rebuttals for this argument, for example, in 2012 a blogger from the Syracuse University School of Information Studies outlined some of the flaws of that 2011 study, including the fact that the conclusion to the 2011 Forbes study was based solely on statistical data and that the writer didn’t take the other options that MLIS degree holders have outside the traditional library into consideration.

Realistically, post graduation, I think library graduates are going to get into a really competitive and challenging job market and ,to be frank, the same thing could be said to all other degree holders, not just those who hold a Master’s degree in library and information science. Therefore, I think it’s imperative that library students don’t limit themselves, for instance, I think learning skills that are outside one’s selected program , such as: computer programming/scripting, teaching, or management will make a person more marketable. Library and information science graduates might have to look beyond the traditional library to find employment opportunities, perhaps utilizing certain keywords to find a position.

There are several articles and blog posts related to this issue (seriously, just Google them), so it’s tough to form a definite conclusion about the future of libraries and whether or not there will be jobs for LIS graduates. I remain a little optimistic about the prospects of LIS graduates, because libraries (particularly public libraries) are known to adapt to changes, however, with major budget cuts and society’s general conception of libraries and librarians it hasn’t been easy, and it probably won’t get any easier in the long run. As far as jobs and employment goes, I think it’s very important to look beyond the traditional library and for job hunters to basically advocate for themselves. It’s not going to be easy, but then again, it isn’t easy for anyone. Regardless of their program, graduating students are going to enter an extremely competitive job market.

Here’s a short list of recommended readings and websites to check out:

  • By the Numbers: Librarian Data
  • Good News: Librarian Job Growth Exploding
    • This article might be a little optimistic, and slightly outdated (it was published in 2012), but it makes some important points on how people in different fields are doing similar tasks that librarians are doing.
  • Library Jobs Math
    • The author takes a bit of a pessimistic stance on job availability for post grads who want to work in libraries, but the data analysis on the number of people retiring from library positions and the number of jobs that may or may not be available  is very interesting.
  • INALJ: I Need a Library Job
    • This is a fantastic website that I found while writing this article. It is part social networking site, part blog, and part jobs board. The website takes a realistic view on librarianship as a field, and lists jobs for MLIS holders on a national scale. I recommend taking a look at this website.

Welcome to My Blog

Welcome

If you’re here you either have an interest in libraries or you just stumbled upon my blog by accident, either way I’m glad your here.

So what is this blog about? Well it’s about many things, but the focus is going to be on libraries and anything else library and information science (LIS) related and how the LIS field can make an impact U.S. communities.

Now you guys may be wondering, “why libraries, haven’t they become obsolete in the digital age?” My answer to that is yes and no. Libraries are evolving, people can’t just look at libraries as merely repositories for books, because that concept is becoming obsolete, however, librarians and information professionals are increasingly becoming active in their community, and as a result libraries are becoming more like community centers. For example, there are some libraries that are already offering patrons access to maker spaces and 3D printers. Therefore, people should start looking at libraries as places of learning and community development, and not just repositories for various materials.

I’m not going to look at the issues surrounding libraries with a rosy lens, I understand that state governments have slashed funding for libraries (and other government programs) in the past, and that there aren’t as many jobs for library science graduates as there were ten to twenty years ago. My goal is to look at the current issues and analyze them, perhaps there may be a silver lining. In addition to libraries I want to look at issues surrounding information technology (i.e. privacy, keeping the Internet open, Internet safety, expanding broadband, etc.). Perhaps there is a way for librarians and information professionals to contribute to the betterment of technology access beyond just showing someone how to get on the Internet.

Comments, corrections, and ideas are welcome, however, I will not tolerate any hateful messages or any acts of Internet trolling. Everyone has a right to voice their opinions, but please be respectful.