Tag Archives: social networking

Some Thoughts on Privacy 2.0

The Pew Internet in American Life project has just come out with a report on how people feel about their online identity. Digital Footprints examines who keeps track of personal information available online, how they feel about inaccuracies they might find, and whether they are nervous that so much personal information is publicly available.

The majority of Internet users responding to the survey say they don’t worry about it. Most would like to control their digital image – but don’t take steps to do it. (Interestingly teens are more likely to limit access to their profiles. Many adults feel an unlimited online presence is necessary for their careers – and teens may feel limiting their profile is an equally smart move for their future careers.) Technology has changed our expectations: the interactivity of Web 2.0 and the addition of new data formats and geotagging will only increase the fine grain of our digital footprint. But so have external events. The public grew far more tolerant of having their privacy invaded after 9/11, according to several studies in a fascinating section of the report.

My guess is that we’ve been equally desensitized by advertising that is driven by harvesting and analyzing our searches, and by banks and other corporation routinely mining our lives for personal information. (Fortunately Senator Dodd thinks there should be some limits to corporate spying, at least when it contributes to a violation of the constitution.)

The recent OCLC report on Sharing, Privacy, and Trust in our Networked World found that only about half of respondents want libraries to keep their activities private, in contrast to librarians, who are more likely to find privacy important. In general, this report jibes with Pew’s in that people want to control what they share. They just aren’t very aware of what they’re sharing when they’re not in control. The degree of trust in information services that store their searches and use that information commercially either means there’s a disconnect between wanting to control what they share and letting corporations harvest information from their searches – or they simply don’t recognize the extent to which it’s happening.

The OCLC report urges libraries to do more social networking to develop trust.

We know that privacy is important to users, and to librarians, but we also know that sharing and open access matter. Privacy matters, but sharing matters more. If the axiom “convenience trumps quality” was the trade-off that gave rise to the search portals as providers of “good enough” information, it might be said of the social Web that “sharing trumps privacy.”

Unfortunately the example they use as a success in this area is the banking industry (huh?), not sites that seem to take both readers and privacy more seriously, like LibraryThing (which is not mentioned in the OCLC report, though it’s doing largely what the report recommends libraries do). And it seems to contradict the report’s belief that people are desperate to share that there are only seven comments at the site OCLC created to discuss the report.

The blogger Rudibrarian has a brilliant post on this issue.

Something I think about whenever I see a list of Cool 2.0 Free Tools You Can Implement At Your Library is privacy (or more accurately, confidentiality). Why are they free? Who’s getting what? Does the user retain ownership of their information? Is the library facilitating the sale or use of users’ information when offering this tool?

I *only* think about this when I see others’ implementations or lists of tools. I almost never think about it when I myself am doing something where I ought to think about it. Like, perhaps, when adding applications to my facebook….

…Users ought to worry about this stuff but the information world has gone completely mad and out of control and is being monetized and ramified in all sorts of ways they can’t even begin to understand when they take their first gateway drug (which might be a DisneyPhone designed to allow their parents to track their every movement and thus desensitize them further!)

So, librarians used to have this bill of rights to guide library services which states

IV. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.

Which I read to mean that libraries and librarians work to support the statement that all individuals are free to read whatever they choose and that such reading is nobody’s business but their own. Essentially, that libraries and librarians are (or should be) committed to protecting patron privacy and confidentiality (two similar but not identical goals).

So, questions to ponder for later parsing:

1. Are libraries still committed to this?
2. Should we care that our patrons (especially academic library patrons, since that’s my ball of string) don’t care about their own privacy or confidentiality? Should their naiveté trump our responsibilities?
3. Does our desire to do more for our patrons hold hands with their naiveté to further sexy goals, or is it OK to not let them know what we’re doing (or that we don’t know!)?
4. Does anyone know how much info we’re giving away though Facebook? or other username/password identity sites?
5. Is it still within our power to prevent Minority Report from becoming reality?

To which I’d add: Aren’t these all questions we should be asking ourselves, right now, urgently?

Takes More Than Blogs And Wikis To Build The Socially Networked Academic Library

It’s been two years since OCLC issued its Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources report, and just over a year since the release of the subset of that report focusing on college students. Now OCLC delivers its latest survey report, Sharing, Privacy and Trust in Our Networked World. Was it worth the wait? While I think this latest report is not quite the blockbuster the last one was, it certainly is an informative document as it helps librarians to put the phenonmenon of the social web into perspective. It offers a different vision of what it means for a library to incorporate web 2.0 technologies, one that requires academic libraries to go beyond blogs, wikis and facebook profiles. It states:

We conceived of a social library as a library of traditional services enhanced by a set of social tools—wikis, blogs, mashups and podcasts. services, of course, user-friendly for sure and offering superior self-service. We were wrong.

Our view, after living with the data, struggling with the findings, listening to experts and creating our own social spaces, is quite different. Becoming engaged in the social Web is not about learning new services or mastering new technologies. To create a checklist of social tools for librarians to learn or to generate a “top ten” list of services to implement on the current library Web site would be shortsighted. Such lists exist. Resist the urge to use them. The social Web is not being built by augmenting traditional Web sites with new tools. And a social library will not be created by implementing a list of social software features on our current sites. The social Web is being created by opening the doors to the production of the Web, dismantling the current structures and inviting users in to create their content and establish new rules.

New rules? Are libraries ready for that? According to the survey respondents the answer is “probably not”. The vast majority of the respondents, more than 85%, see no reason for libraries to construct or sponsor social network sites (click on the thumbnail to view the chart).

Few respondents say they’d be likely to contribute to a library social site, view the content of others or even participate in a social site. We often look to OCLC for answers. I think the big question is “How do we get our users to contribute their content, to participate in the production process?” Not having read the report in great detail just yet (still waiting for my paper copy), I can’t say if the answers are in there. So far I have learned that the report authors believe “the new social library will be …messy. But mass participation and a little chaos often create exciting venues for collaboration, creativity, community building and transformation.” Perhaps there are no good solutions, and we just have to wade into the mess and figure out how to create the change that encourages more social participation in the academic library.

Mess aside, this report is valuable to academic librarians for the special appendix on “College Students in Our Networked Work.” OCLC surveyed 511 college students to gain insight into their socially networked lives. One surprise is that some college students have yet to explore social networking; only 56% reported using a social networking site. Is it possible the wording of the question gave inaccurate results? What if they asked “Do you use MySpace or Facebook” instead of referring to them as “social networks”. By comparison, 38% of the students reported using the library’s web site. (click on the thumbnail to view the chart)

We tend to think that every student spends hours a day on Facebook or MySpace, and perhaps that’s inaccurate. If you do want to reach students with web 2.0 technology – or provide them a venue for contributing content – you’d be far wiser to use YouTube than Flickr. Only 10% of the college respondents reported using Flickr, but 84% reported using YouTube. (click on the thumbnail to view the chart).

The report is also about privacy and trust in social web environments. While the report finds that college students are less likely than the general public to trust those they meet on social networks, I would have liked some information comparing trust levels of those encountered in networks and librarians encountered in academic libraries. Past reports have suggested that college students and others are more likely to trust people they meet online than institutional authority figures.

The latest OCLC survey report is available online for free downloading (in whole or by section) or a print copy can be ordered for a fee. Either way, take some time to look over the report, and then discuss it with colleagues. Any way you look at it, if the goal is to build a socially networked library that provides opportunities for the user community to participate and generate content we have much work to do. Perhaps of which the most challenging task will be giving our users a reason or rationale for doing so. Because according to the report, right now too few of them think the library has anything to do with or reason to be part of the socially networked web. Another powerful hurdle to overcome is the way the community identifies the library with the book – from their perspective that’s our brand whether we like it or not. So OCLC recommends that if you do build a social network or attempt to engage your community in a social network, the choice is about books. Do you want to leverage the book brand (e.g., book recommendations, book discussion groups, etc.) or do you want to defy the brand and attempt to establish a new one. If it’s the latter, the social network created by the library may be about many things of which the book is just a minor entity. It’s your call.

Credits: Many thanks to OCLC for allowing the reproduction of the charts and the link to the study. These materials are copyrighted 2007 by OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc. and are used with OCLC’s permission. I’d also like to thank Kenley Neufeld who first brought the report to my attention and shared some ideas and notes with me.