Heights Libraries prioritizes privacy

Public libraries have always made privacy a priority.

Libraries protect and promote intellectual freedom, and that freedom cannot exist without privacy. If an individual’s activities and choices are monitored, that person no longer feels free to exercise free expression and make lawful use of library resources. That’s why the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library System keeps customer privacy at the forefront of its mission.

Heights Libraries does not share customer library card identification with any vendors. It uses software to wipe out customer sessions after they use one of its public computers. Heights Libraries Wi-Fi lives behind the CLEVNET firewall. Library staff wraps hold items so that patrons can’t see what others are checking out, and self-checkout stations keep all reading and listening choices private.

On a national level, the American Library Association (ALA) files amicus (friend of the court) briefs for legislation and court cases that challenge a person’s right to maintain his or her privacy; it is a part of the ALA Code of Ethics. Public libraries support an individual’s constitutional right to a reasonable expectation of privacy as outlined in the Fourth Amendment. For 15 years, librarians have fought the Patriot Act and its successors. Librarians have gone to jail in the name of patron privacy.

The public has finally caught up with libraries on the importance of privacy, mostly due to concerns about online privacy.

Major retail companies, including Target, Staples and Home Depot, have been breached, as have insurance companies such as Anthem, and technology company Yahoo. The 2016 presidential campaign saw the hacked e-mails of Hillary Clinton put in the spotlight.

The November issue of Consumer Reports shares the story of a woman who had her mobile account hijacked. Ironically, she happened to be the chief technologist of the Federal Trade Commission—the agency in charge of protecting fair information practice principles within the U.S. and around the world.

The article explored the multibillion-dollar trade in personal data, and potential dangers to online consumers. The author suggests that we can all start “practicing privacy” with mindfulness, regaining control over technology and practicing “safe” communication.

People who shred documents that contain personal information and cut up old credit cards already have good habits that can be extended to phones and laptops as well. Creating unbreakable passwords and two-factor authentication, and turning off GPS data sharing on Facebook are easy to do. Covering webcams, locking down one’s baby monitor and protecting one’s home Wi-Fi with a password can also become second nature.

Heights Libraries has a number of resources available to help customers educate themselves on this issue. From traditional computer classes to online-learning opportunities, Heights Libraries can help. To get started, visit Learning @ Heights Libraries (http://heightslibrary.org/learning-heights-libraries) for a complete list of upcoming computer classes and free online tutorial, including these:

  • Heights Libraries’ Computer Basic Series, Part 6 Computer and Internet Security.
  • Heights Libraries’ Internet Safety and Security.
  • DigitalLearn.org, an online resource created by the Public Library Association features the courses Accounts and Passwords, Online Scams, and Internet Privacy.
  • GCF LearnFree.org, the Goodwill Community Foundation website, offers the courses Internet Safety and Internet Safety for Kids.

Customers can also stay up-to-date with technology-related issues by subscribing to the Heights Libraries’ Tech Blog: http://blog.heightslibrary.org/category/genres/technology/.

Nancy Levin

Nancy Levin is the director of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library System.

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Volume 9, Issue 12, Posted 11:29 AM, 11.30.2016