Online Privacy

Amazon using library cookies?

In the Technology section of the New York Times there is an article called An Icon That Says They’re Watching You that is about an idea to help companies target online ads and still protect your privacy: Mark ads with a special icon that, when clicked, displays what they know about you.

In the comments section there is a person claiming that Amazon used their library information to target products to them. Black helicopter time? Or possibility?

Excerpt of comment: the targeting wasn’t based on my prior purchasing patterns: Amazon pulled it from tracking my recent library borrowing requests.

Last time I looked, the government couldn’t get this info without a subpoena; but renewing my books online apparently allows Amazon to nibble my cookies indiscriminately. Moreover, there’s nothing to stop the govt from getting my library records the roundabout way, through Amazon. And had it not been for those come-ons, I would probably not have noticed or wondered what Amazon was up to.

A Matter of Ethics

From Randy Cohen's 'The Ethicist" column in the NYT:

Q. I’m a librarian. A regular patron, a man in his late 40s or early 50s and virtually technologically illiterate, asked me to print a few e-mail attachments for him — photos of a young and attractive Russian woman. Many of the messages were titled “I Love You” or the like and included explicit requests for money. I believe he is being scammed. May I intervene, or does that violate his privacy and my professional boundaries? N.P., LAWRENCE, KAN.

A. The professional — and delicate — response is to give your patron excellent service without criticizing or embarrassing him. A skilled reference librarian often goes beyond a patron’s specific request, suggesting resources he has not even considered. You can provide this fellow with the information that he needs to protect himself from (or at least become aware of) possible fraud — and without using the words “You love-drunk old fool.”

Ann Thornton, a director of reference and research services at the New York Public Library, concurs via e-mail: “If the librarian handles the matter in a confidential, courteous manner and offers appropriate resources, he/she is providing a higher level of service. Therefore, it is well within the scope of his/her professional responsibility.” -- Read More

Agency Skeptical of Internet Privacy Policies

Agency Skeptical of Internet Privacy Policies The Federal Trade Commission had some sharp words for Internet companies Thursday, saying that they are not explaining to their users clearly enough what information they collect about them and how they use it for advertising. For now, the commission is sticking to its view that the Internet industry can voluntarily regulate its own privacy practices.

Hiding My Candy: Give Me The Option To Share My Reading

Hiding My Candy: Give Me The Option To Share My Reading. The Free Range Librarian:

I expect librarians to protect my privacy by going to bat for me when the government or industry over-intrudes, not by designing systems that make it impossible to have an online presence in their systems. I want companies and organizations that gather this data to use it in ways that improve my experiences — making my life more efficient, fun, and interesting — and yes, they can use it to improve their experiences, as well.

Information...or...Nosiness?

Verizon Wireless has fired an undisclosed number of employees who couldn’t resist the chance to peek into Barack Obama’s cellphone records, CNN reports.

It was an old, flip-top phone, not his famous BlackBerry, and the account had been inactive for months. No text messages or voicemail contents could have been accessed. The employees were satisfying “idle curiosity,” a source told CNN, and the employees were not authorized to access customer records.

Microsoft adds privacy tools to IE8

Microsoft Corp. today spelled out new privacy tools in Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) that some have dubbed "porn mode" in a nod to the most obvious use of a browser privacy mode.

A privacy advocate applauded the move, calling it a "great step forward," while rival browser builder Mozilla Corp. said it is working to add similar features to a future Firefox.

The Eternal Value of Privacy

Bruce Schneier:

Too many wrongly characterize the debate as "security versus privacy." The real choice is liberty versus control. Tyranny, whether it arises under threat of foreign physical attack or under constant domestic authoritative scrutiny, is still tyranny. Liberty requires security without intrusion, security plus privacy. Widespread police surveillance is the very definition of a police state. And that's why we should champion privacy even when we have nothing to hide.

Privacy Concerns with Facebook Applications

The Wikinomics blog has a post about potential privacy concerns that result from using Facebook applications:

"...many people do not realize that by adding these applications, they’re giving the applications (and therefore the application’s developer(s)) access to their personal information — irrespective of any privacy settings that a user may choose."

Anti-terror Threat to Librarian Role Now Seen in UK

The U.K.'s The Bookseller reports that "Police forces are requesting information on the library borrowing records of individuals under police surveillance.

The requests are understood to centre on areas with a high Muslim population. John Pateman, head of libraries in Lincolnshire, criticised the development, saying it went against library ethics and could damage community cohesion. “It concerns me. Public libraries are one of the last public spaces where people don’t have to justify themselves,” he said.

Warwickshire head of li­braries Ayub Khan said that librarians “right across the country” had seen instances where the police have asked for library records—“not just books, but also access to records of the internet sites individuals have visited”. Another librarian confirmed direct experience of such a police request.

Librarians’ concerns come after controversy in the US, where surveillance in libraries became a major public issue following the passing of the 2001 US Patriot Act. "

What a librarian can teach you about privacy

Over On Computer World Mark Hall Writes: Let's face it: When it comes to keeping data secure, there's plenty that IT can learn from librarians. Just as ALA members ensure that their patrons' reading habits remain strictly private by establishing privacy audits, so, too, can CIOs audit their systems to ensure that customer and employee data is protected, says Caldwell-Stone. Privacy audits keep customer and employee content under wraps and can protect companies from embarrassing revelations. Librarians have been trained to consider privacy ramifications surrounding access to content. They guard those rights vigorously and are a great example for CIOs designing secure systems. Just ask them. Quietly, of course.

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