Remote + Connected

Reflection #3: In the Internet We Trust (Maybe Not)

Over the last few weeks, I have been thinking a lot about the role of “trust” in hyperlinked environments (in general) and the implications for libraries. Since I work with teens (but I am not a parent myself), I wanted to learn more about how parents and teens are negotiating “trust” issues in the hyperlinked world.

According to Pew Research (Anderson, 2016), it seems that parents are much more likely to “monitor” teens online behavior than not. One statistic I found interesting was that most parents were more comfortable “checking” the websites, social media, and phone calls/texts of their children than using parental controls or engaging in deeper discussions about online behavior in hyperlinked spaces.

Pew Research reports that have documented low levels of trust in sectors that Americans associate with data collection and monitoring, the new findings show Americans also have exceedingly low levels of confidence in the privacy and security of the records that are maintained by a variety of institutions in the digital age.

Madden, M and Rainie,, L. (2015). American’s attitudes about privacy, security and surveillance.

As Madden and Rainie (2015) document, very few adults have any trust in the ways that advertisers, social media companies, and the government protect personal records–from online chats to financial documents to cell phone logs. So then, is it really surprising that parents are more likely to self-monitor teens than use parental controls. So I began to ask, what about libraries? How seriously do libraries safeguard patron records? In the coming years can the protection of privacy in the Library Bill of Rights withstand in the new information landscape?

Diving deeper, I found a 2017 Pew study on the importance of “trust” in “healthy” online environments and how no one is exactly sure what will happen in the next few years…will people abandon social media? Will most accept a high level of insecurity as the price of being online? Will new technologies be invented to make everyone feel safer?

While researching this reflection, I came across a new term–Data Dignity–in a TED Talk by Jarrod Lanier. It seems reasonable to expect that librarians will be employed to ensure “data dignity” and make sure that information is not only accessible but also “trustworthy”? Just this week I had a distraught patron come up to me afraid that his American citizenship had been sold to Korea based on something he had read online (it hadn’t). For him, the library was a trusted and safe place to reveal his vulnerability and find answers.

If librarians are to retain high levels of public trust (something that we should be protective and proud of), we will have to make sure that hyperlinked environments keep “trust” and “transparency” central to its role in community building.

Lastly, I was happy to learn about The Trust Project, which developed transparency standards and”trustworthiness” indicators for news and over 100 news organizations have signed on and agreed to abide by these standards. If the topic of “fake news” interests you, you will want to listen to a fascinating podcast with Stanford’s social media expert, Jeff Hancock, and Director of the Trust Project, Sally Lehrman, as they examine what we can do to rebuild our collective grasp on the truth.


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

Madden, M and Rainie,, L. (2015). American’s attitudes about privacy, security and surveillance.

Rainie, L. (2016). Privacy & Information Sharing

4 thoughts on “Reflection #3: In the Internet We Trust (Maybe Not)

  1. Tiffany Song

    Hi Cristin,

    I liked learning about how ‘trust’ as a concept has transformed and how the relationship teens and parents have with the Internet and with other forms of technology has changed. I remember in the past, we did have blocks/filters put in the computer that would act as parental controls. Now it seems like that is not the case.

    It’s interesting to see how rather than put the trust in these companies or resources that will help filter out what your children see online, that parents put the power in their own hands. Certainly, times have changed. But the internet has become so much more advanced than it was in the past and naturally parenting styles have adapted because of that.

    I do wonder if what we have now is considered a healthy online environment and your questions have allowed me to reflect on the possibilities of the future.

    I appreciated your experience for the direction of how libraries will be perceived in the future. I think it’s incredibly true because people see libraries as this hub for information and we find we are in this position of information literacy.

  2. Jen Christensen

    Hi Cristin,

    I appreciate how you tackled the concept of “data dignity,” specifically the mention of the The Trust Project. Like you, it’s somewhat reassuring these efforts are popping up to combat issues of transparency and trustworthiness. However, I am weary of algorithm-driven evaluations – I’m just not convinced that the human element is not yet powerful enough to combat the often menacing and pervasive effects of algorithms. In terms of The Trust Project, I am afraid that efforts to promote trust become irrelevant if their efforts are to homogenize online media outlets in favor of mainstream media.

    Here at LAPL, they have added NewsGuard, a browser extension that labels news sources with either a red or green icon, which indicates its general trustworthiness, as well as indicating if that particular media outlet has a history of running “fake news” stories. As of January 2019, the extension has included ratings for 2000 of the most popular American news sites. To be honest, I can’t say if the NewsGuard icon has deterred me much in my online information searching, but I do appreciate the effort. I would absolutely like to see efforts like NewsGuard and The Trust Project fleshed out a bit so we can absolutely rely on them. I believe a key component of this is being transparent about the factors used to create their algorithms. Perhaps adding a human element will make a difference?

    Great work!

    1. Cristin Marie Post author

      Thanks Jen, I agree with you on many of your points…This issue of “trust” is a really big one…I am going to check out Newsguard, it sounds interesting, but it might be a band-aid not a real fix…but perhaps better than ignoring the problem entirely?

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