Teens, privacy, and digital surveillance

Last week, my library science department hosted Alison Macrina, the founder and director of The Library Freedom Project (LFP). From their website: 

The Library Freedom Project is a partnership among librarians, technologists, attorneys, and privacy advocates which aims to make real the promise of intellectual freedom in libraries. By teaching librarians about surveillance threats, privacy rights and responsibilities, and digital tools to stop surveillance, we hope to create a privacy-centric paradigm shift in libraries and the local communities they serve. 

Alison’s three-hour workshop went by so fast, probably because she is an engaging speaker and the things she talked about were interesting. There is so much to know and learn about digital privacy…especially as librarians. We are in a critical position to help spread this information to the communities we serve. Alison herself is a librarian/has a librarian background so she definitely sees our potential in helping to protect intellectual freedom in these spaces. She is so about librarians, the LFP even has a toolkit all for us!

Throughout the workshop some of the topics we covered included: free and open source software (FOSS), Tor (an alternative internet browser), creating better and more secure passwords, search engines, and https.

I live tweeted part of the workshop, so here’s another recap (with some great quotes from Alison):

 

As I sat in the workshop and then reflected on my pages of notes, I started to think about how not only could I change my digital habits (using Google less, downloading Tor, or creating some new passwords) but also how these ideas could be integrated into my librarianship. Which then got me thinking about how teens could begin to access this information. What sorts of workshops could be created to help teens understand their digital footprint and digital surveillance? I think I raise this question in one of my posts from earlier this year but I want to raise it again. Or even ask if any librarians in the field have tried or done workshops around this topic?

If I was tasked with this assignment once I head into the field May 2016, one of my tactics might be to watch a movie that centers on digital privacy and surveillance, such as The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz or Citizenfour.

These movies might be a way to start the conversation. Or another tactic could be having a workshop looking into search engines – perhaps starting to see how algorithms (especially ones like Google) are so personalized that it both helps and hinders our searching. These ideas I think get at the crux of what I strive for – both a better understanding of the technology we are surrounded by paired with a demystification of that technology for more critical and confident users.

So what do others think? Have you heard of Alison and the Library Freedom Project before? How do you think ideas of digital citizenship, privacy, and surveillance be added to your current teen programming?

About Hailley Fargo

Hi, I'm a new professional working as the Student Engagement Librarian at Penn State University, University Park campus. As someone who provides reference to undergraduate students and teach information literacy to primarily freshman, I'm curious about the intersections of the work of YALSA and academic libraries (and how we can collaborate and work together to help our teens). In my spare time, I like to bike, read memoirs, watch TV shows, and consider myself an oatmeal connoisseur.
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