Monday, October 1, 2012

Online identity and privacy

My reading of the Raynes-Goldie study of privacy and Facebook inspired me to look for something more current on the topic. In the process I came across this interesting article by LOTHAR DETERMANN  “Social media privacy: a dozen myths and facts”  Determann argues that the biggest risk to online privacy is not the social media companies, the advertisers, the government or the technology, it is the users themselves.  As a librarian engaging in social media use on behalf of my institution, I need to be aware of my users privacy concerns, just as I need to be aware of my institutions right to keep sensitive material private.  These privacy issues are not new – as a librarian, I would not share my customers reading habits or information needs with others, and so I need to ensure that social media use does not similarly breach privacy.

 Two areas spring to mind – the posting of photographs of library events on our Facebook page (something we currently do) and the use of peer recommendations and reviews in library catalogues (something we don’t currently do).  I am very cautious about the use of photographs depicting people, and we currently have a procedure in place to obtain photo permission from the parents of children who participate in Library activities.  Even with that procedure in place, I am still very reluctant to use photos depicting children, unless I seek and gain additional permission to post that photo to our Facebook page.  Do I need to extend that same caution to adults as well, or do I simply avoid using photos with people in them? Does this need to be defined in a social media policy?

I have been toying with the notion of incorporating some sort of user reviews / recommendations into our library catalogue, or encouraging patron participation in a social book review site such as Goodreads.  Do I need to think about the possibility of participation potentially revealing my patrons reading habits and tastes, or does the fact that people contribute to these services of their own volition negate my concerns.  Can the underlying service provide aggregate information and use it for commercial purposes, and if they can, is that my worry? Do the benefits to the patron outweigh these potential concerns?

For me, exposure to this topic has broadened my thinking about some of the underlying issues and concerns around social media, and how it is a rich source of data about people and their lives.  Balancing the competing desires of engaging with my patrons in their spaces and networks against ensuring that my actions do not breach the fundamental tenet of protecting user privacy is an interesting dilemma, and one that I am sure many other libraries are facing.  

(I found that in this activity, I went rather "off topic", but, in reading these articles, I found that these were the concerns that resonated with me)

Raynes-Goldie, K. (2010). Aliases, creeping, and wall cleaning: Understanding privacy in the age of Facebook, First Monday, 15(1), 4 January. Available 

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