Thoughts on Privacy

March 13, 2017

I’ve decided to share my comments on the issue of privacy this week, as I believe it to be timely and very important. The past week has made me reconsider being an Amazon Echo owner, I will say that much. It’s very interesting to me that “93% of adults say that being in control of who can get information about them is important” (Madden & Rainie, 2015). To be connected is to be listened to and tracked. I know I sound like a conspiracy theorist, but to some extent it’s true. Have you ever been at a restaurant and Google Maps asks you if you can take some photos of, say, the Panera you’re sitting in? It’s just creepy. But we swipe these notifications away like they’re nothing.

Switching gears here: I was also interested in the Pew article that stated that parents use the internet as a punishment tool “65% [h]ave taken away teen’s cellphone or internet privileges as punishment” (Anderson, 2016). Though I think withholding a cellphone or internet could be an effective punishment, what good does it really do? I think it can be detrimental to the cultivation of our hyperlinked…well…anything! What if that teen was acting out due to bullying, or found a subreddit (reference to the sort of “tribes” on that they found a sense of community and support? Taking that away from your child could exacerbate the situation, cause them to distrust you (especially if you intend to snoop through their phone, which it is obvious many parents do, 61% checking their web history at that (Anderson, 2016)). I don’t intend to tell people how to parent or judge people. These are my opinions *darts under table, escaping potentially ensuing mommy war in the comments.*

Now, let’s bring it back to libraries. One of my favorite parts of working in libraries as that we are (at least purported to be, anyways) champions of privacy and intellectual freedom. I have been watching the work of the Library Freedom Project with enthusiasm over the past couple of years, applauding them for their work at the Lebanon Public Library with standing up for and dealing with flack relating to establishing Tor at this library. Though I don’t see this working in my library and likely not any Chicago area library (one can hope) I really admire their efforts, their attempt to educate the community, and deal with federal blow back. I view libraries as a beacon in this crazy world we’re living in as it relates to privacy especially.

Anderson, M. (2016). Parents, teens and digital monitoring. 

Madden, M., & Rainie, L. (2015, May 20). Americans’ attitudes about privacy, security and surveillance. Retrieved March 9, 2017, from

3 Responses to “Thoughts on Privacy”

  1. Profile photo of Erin Lybrand-Wenz said

    We have a Google Home in my house and I usually forget it’s there, except when it thinks I’ve said something like “hey Google” or “Ok Google” and starts chiming in…a creepy reminder that it is ALWAYS listening.

    This weekend, I set up a new phone for myself and I realized that I just blindly hit ok, ok, ok, ok to all of the options that appeared, including location services. Saying “no” to options like that causes so much of a headache later when apps won’t work because your location services aren’t enabled. I’m so hooked on this device that I’m willing to let Big Brother essentially follow me around everywhere. That’s really not ok and yet…I’ve convinced myself that life without it isn’t ok either. YIKES.

    • Profile photo of Molly said

      I really enjoy my Alexa but I am seriously considering what it means for data collection and my privacy. This is a true story – I had NEVER searched ANYWHERE online for humidifiers. I was talking to my boyfriend about how great I think they are when you have a cold or in winter months. No joke, my Amazon ads were for humidifiers later that day. I heard of others experiencing targeted ads based on conversations on NPR. I try to remain positive as much as possible but I think we cannot take privacy for granted. Dissecting terms and conditions takes an advanced law degree, practically. They don’t make it easy to interpret what we agree to with our devices.

      • Kelly Chung said

        Holy Cannoli Molly…that is super freaky! In the past I have gotten my husband new gaming stations as gifts for Christmas, birthdays, etc. I remember when Xbox one came out and all the talk was about how it’s just like letting the government into your living room to view and watch everything you are doing. Granted, your experience sounds like it’s everybody watching especially the marketing departments! In the library setting, we are constantly being asked if we can look up that title they had checked out a month ago. When we tell them no, that we do not track that information because it goes against their privacy rights more often than not people are annoyed we can’t pull up the requested information! We have all be trained Google in excess by being able to track all of our purchases for years. Having immediate access to everything we have ever purchased or anywhere we are located is somewhat nuts! I agree with Erin, I think we have become numb to our privacy rights or feel like life is just easier if we give them up…go figure.

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