Working in a public library for the past three years, I have seen and heard a lot of interesting things. The most fascinating thing for me though, has to be how willing our library patrons are to exposing themselves and their personal information online. The American Library Association clearly states their devotion to patron privacy in terms of their user information and library records, “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.” But what about the kinds of privacy issues that we don’t have control over, yet are still occurring in our institutions every single day.
In April 2010, Facebook came out with a new feature called “instant personalization” which is a way to access your social graph in more places online. Basically, Facebook is trying to “become the web” by linking into various websites and using your information to “personalize” the kind of info that reaches you. Founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg explains instant personalization as such:
“We are making it so all websites can work together to build a more comprehensive map of connections and create better, more social experiences for everyone. We have redesigned Facebook Platform to offer a simple set of tools that sites around the web can use to personalize experiences and build out the graph of connections people are making.
This next version of Facebook Platform puts people at the center of the web. It lets you shape your experiences online and make them more social. For example, if you like a band on Pandora, that information can become part of the graph so that later if you visit a concert site, the site can tell you when the band you like is coming to your area. The power of the open graph is that it helps to create a smarter, personalized web that gets better with every action taken.”
I actually stumbled upon this new feature on accident, and it is what got me thinking about this topic. I was playing around on my Pandora account the other day, and noticed that when the Avett Brothers came on, it would pop up a picture of one of my friends from Facebook and say “So-and-So likes this band”. I was so freaked out by this, because I had no idea how it was getting access to my information, and wriggling it’s spidery fingers into my Facebook account. Once I read about this instant personalization feature, it made more sense, but I am still quite bothered by it.
Zuckerberg also commented that “people have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people. That social norm is just something that has evolved over time.”
Okay, but what about for those of us who are not comfortable with sharing all of our personal information online? They don’t necessarily make it easy to “like” more control over your privacy. Seeing as so much social networking is going on in our libraries, it only seems right to make our patrons aware of certain privacy factors when they go online. I’ve seen and heard a lot of compromising situations concerning privacy occur in my library. People willingly providing their credit card details to untrusted sites or people posting their address and phone number for everyone to see. I feel like so many users are ignorant to the fact that they shouldn’t be revealing so much personal information about themselves, and I feel like it is somewhat our duty, as information professionals, to educate our library patrons about the various privacy issues for when they go online. Some possible suggestions would be providing a flyer/pamphlet for online safety or to direct them to this site from the Center for Democracy and Technology. Any other thoughts/suggestions on this matter?