The internet, with its many means of communicating, sharing information, and learning, is not unlike bacteria—constantly growing, often mutating, and, let’s face it, sometimes a bit scary when you factor in the unknown. Librarians have many worries when it comes to security and privacy.
The questions never end: Where is library data going? How do I prevent my computers from being hacked? How do I protect my personal information? It’s hard for librarians and harder still for the average consumer (who is also a patron) to come up with definitive answers.
Do you have to be a techie to have security and privacy expertise? Fortunately, no. In fact, you need only call on the skills you already have as a library professional: thinking critically and logically and finding the right resources on the topic to instruct and enable users to gain some expertise themselves.
Of course, there are many things to take into account, and neither security nor the wider aspects of privacy is part of the general M.L.S./M.L.I.S. curriculum. Nor is this reinforced to most librarians on a daily basis regardless of the area of the library they work in. Nevertheless, this broad topic definitely concerns librarians, as it is such a key part of the underpinnings of the profession.
HOW DO WE GET THERE?
It is a good start that librarians, patrons, and the wider community are aware of the risks that can occur every time we log in. The news is full of headlines about major retailers suffering data breaches; we’ve gotten those letters from companies providing yet another free year of credit protection services; we’ve seen how malware can take over a PC to the point of a complete crash; and we understand the hesitancy of people to use services because they don’t know what or how the data is being used.
Damon Beres reported on a poll conducted by YouGov and The Huffington Post in April 2016 (“Here’s How Much People Trust Facebook”; huffingtonpost.com/entry/facebook-personal-data-poll_us_571fc867e4b0b49df6a96bf3) in which 62% of those surveyed said they trust Facebook “not at all” or “not very much” based on the lack of clarity on exactly how their personal data is being used:
You probably know that favorite sites for sharing cat photos quietly collect a ton of information from us, but the bigger issue is Facebook’s vagueness about what it does with it.
Luckily, people are voicing concerns and demanding more transparency on how their data is being used, but they can hit a roadblock if they’re not sure where to go or whom to ask.
The same goes with security and privacy—there is so much to know, so much to find—and librarians are the perfect people to become experts in where to get the appropriate information to answer users’ questions.
A VISION FOR THE FUTURE
Imagine your library as the hub for the community to be educated, informed, and aware of security and privacy: a clearinghouse of information and how to find it.
Security and privacy are core to the underlying ethos of librarians; the ongoing commitment to educate patrons and preserve privacy is a key factor in the ALA Code of Ethics (ala.org/advocacy/proethics/codeofethics/codeethics).