How does privacy intersect with intellectual freedom? And how can you get kids to care?
Data mining and targeted advertising are daily online realities, and the process is streamlined to the point of being largely unnoticeable on the user’s end. But now that concepts like fake news and confirmation bias are becoming part of everyday conversation, it is increasingly important to make the connection between online privacy and equitable access to information.
In March of this year, Congress voted to repeal new FCC regulations set to go into effect this year which would have strengthened broadband and wireless consumer privacy protections. This means that internet service providers will have an increasingly free hand to analyze and sell personal information without explicit consent and without highlighting an easy way for users to opt out. The narrowly customized service that results can potentially limit available information and stifle opportunity for discovery, which is especially worrying for young people that have inherent familiarity with the technology but aren’t necessarily trained in information literacy. The more a child’s online experience is tailored by what advertisers know about them, the more credulous they can become, and the less likely they are to seek out or even notice information that isn’t meant to entice or convenience them. This makes it much easier to violate their intellectual freedom rights, inadvertently or otherwise.
One way to approach this complex issue with children/students is to participate in the upcoming Choose Privacy Week, an ALA initiative held May 1-7 meant to spur conversation about privacy rights. Inviting young internet denizens to think about privacy in a climate where everyone shares everything on Facebook and YouTube can open up further explorations into the idea of intellectual freedom. There are a number of helpful resources to turn to in order to facilitate those conversations:
- Link or print and share federal laws, articles, and recent news concerning the right to minors’ privacy with students and parents.
- Consider offering a program or display at your library.
- Check out the recent ALSC Community Forum on digital literacy and citizenship for children, in which librarians discussed how to apply some of these concepts in the library and classroom.
Justin Azevedo is the Youth Materials Selector for Sacramento Public Library in California.