Blogger Intellectual Freedom Committee

It’s Private. It’s Personal!

Dear Diary:

I keep you locked and hidden in my favorite secret hidey-hole to keep snoopy people OUT OF MY BUSINESS! THIS MEANS YOU [_______________________________________________]!!!

Fill in name of older, or younger, or every sibling above in ALL CAPS

Did you keep one of those when you were a kid? Or did you grow up as one of the digital natives and managed to get a Facebook or Myspace account, maybe even before you were technically of age to get one? Did you think about everyone who might read it? Were there some people you really did not want to read what you wrote? There may have been a few of them. And now there are many more that young authors on the Internet don’t even think about.

Bruce Farrar, Intellectual Freedom Committee

It’s not just the National Security Agency. When a former contractor for the intelligence agency let the cat out of the bag last year, visions of large posters reading “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU” began to float through our heads. But it is not just governments who are interested in your personal thoughts, opinions, friends and behaviors. Right next to Big Brother, and looking over his shoulder, is Big Data who may be even more interested in taking a peek at your personal life and business, and most especially what you are buying and how much you spend for it.

Last month’s Choose Privacy Week raised consciousness about all this. In case you missed it, ALA started off the Week with the posting of the newly revised Privacy Tool Kit, containing a wealth of information on Personally Identifiable Information (PII), and how the right of privacy affects School Libraries and Public and Academic Library Services to Minors. It’s all important stuff, so it’s time to click on those links and start studying up, if you haven’t had a chance to do it yet.

But what does it mean to your customers? You know them: those smiling faces looking up at you in Story Time, the eager readers who look to you for the coolest new book to read, or the gamers crowding around your computers, blissfully ignoring the scowling grown-up waiting to type up her résumé. How aware are they of how much of their PII they are posting for all the online world to see and what the consequences might be?

Unlike us, they don’t think in acronyms like PII, ALA IFC, COPPA, or IFRT; and although children can be effective advocates with parents and caregivers, they aren’t mobilized for advocacy on a policy and legislation level yet. So how do we reach them at their developmental level? Planning a lecture on Your Privacy Rights filled with PowerPoint slides crammed full of text won’t pump up your program statistics and win you accolades from library administration. I know you’ve already thought of the attractive display of children’s books about Internet safety. But what else might work?

  • Could it be something incorporated into Story Time? Perhaps an updated folktale: Little Red Riding Hood learns not to chat with strangers who want to know information that they don’t need to know, or the story of the Three Little Pigs, including the tragic fate of the first two who shared their PII online. The first one received a package in the mail from and then there was nothing left of the first little pig. All that remained was a large charge on his parents’ credit card for the package. The second overcame his shyness and shared all his bad feelings and fears about wolves at school, and then was mercilessly bullied by them and came to a bad end. But the third little pig outwits the wolf by following safe and sound online practices.
  • Could it be online after school gaming? There’s an online interactive version of the Three Little CyberPigs at Privacy Playground, and several games at the Federal Trade Commission’s Just for You Kids page. Games follow a brief introduction by library staff about online safety and protecting PII.
  • Could it be a program parents and kids held in your computer lab that includes safe and fun places to visit, and incorporates safe practices and tells parents about the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and shows them the Protect Kids Online page at the Federal Trade Commission site?

Let’s hear your brainstorming idea–or even better than brainstorming, brag about the program you put on at your library! That’s the kind of brag you could take to your supervisor, and it stands a very good possibility of showing up on your next performance evaluation. Plus we’re all dying to know about finger plays and crafts that can help protect privacy.

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