Information literacy: Learning about privacy

Information literacy: Learning about privacy

Last modified 22 February 2018.

Copyright laws can affect privacy, especially with regards to digital and social media. This information originally came from a post of mine (originally posted 2 November 2015) from INFO 287: Hyperlinked Library, where the present and future of libraries must consider the privacy of library users.

Privacy is part of the user experience. How we learn and adjust our privacy (and security) preferences should be a sensible, user-centric process — not something obfuscated.


Not articles so much as a webseries: Jay Smooth presents 12 weeks of videos discussing media literacy (2018), on the Green Brothers Crash Course YouTube channel.

Digital Privacy at the U.S. Border: Protecting the Data on Your Devices and in the Cloud,” (Cope, Kalia, Schoen, & Schwartz, March 2017), the latest version of EFF’s guide for maintaining digital privacy while traveling. Also available as a PDF.

Protecting Patron Privacy,” (A. Macrina, July 2016) a helpful outline published in Library Journal.

Not articles, but instead conference recordings [YouTube] from Library 2.016, Privacy in the Digital Age (March 2016). Library 2.0 periodically presents online (generally free) conferences for library and information professionals.

The Wirecutter provides privacy policy details for smart TVs, Blu-ray players, and media streaming services — because what you watch is likely being tracked: “Your Privacy, Your Devices, and You“(December 2015) .

Ian Clark (2016) wrote a thought-provoking article on privacy and surveillance in the Journal of Radical Librarianship, “The Digital Divide in the Post-Snowden Era.”

Lisa Peet’s recent article make good points and offers resources on intellectual privacy, which I’ve added to in the Organizations section: “Always Watched” (November 2015).

The A List Apart article by Alex Schmidt, “Privacy is UX” (September 2015), is relevant. Schmidt focuses on privacy in web development, but I think the topic applies to libraries and information literacy quite well.

The Librarian in Black, Sarah Houghton, encourages us to “Take the Library Digital Privacy Pledge” (September 2015), a recent Library Freedom Project that advocates secure, encrypted (https) online connections at libraries.

Donna Young’s “A 21st-entury model for teaching digital citizenship” (February-March 2014) promotes a semester long curriculum at the 5th grade level that covers privacy, online responsibility and rights, and social media use.

David Cirella’s “Beyond traditional literacy instruction: toward an account-based literacy training curriculum in libraries” (December 2012) focuses on account-based literacy, which advocates personalization of what I call privacy curation.

And here’s an insightful article by Julia Angwin: “Has privacy become a luxury?” (March 2014).

Social media settings

This is a short list, and some of the links point to documentation, which might not always offer clear instructions or a direct means to change preferences. Unless otherwise specified, the date on these links are n.d., i.e., retrieved right before I published this post. In addition, you might need to login to view and set these preferences.

I’d love to add resources for this section! For instance, I couldn’t find a comprehensive guide for Tumblr regarding privacy settings.

Facebook: Privacy basics documentation

Flickr: Privacy & permissions for your account.

Google: Know your Google security and privacy tools

Instagram: Privacy, security, and safety documentation

Pinterest: Help documentation on account security, changing account privacy settings, and their legal and privacy center

Snapchat: Help on changing privacy settings

Twitter: Account settings help, with privacy info is in the sidebar; conduct and reporting policies.


ALA provides Library Privacy Guidelines for ebook Lending and Digital Content Vendors.

Data Privacy Project aims to “inform and support libraries and librarians” regarding privacy issues.

Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is one of the oldest non-profits that advocates Internet and technological privacy rights. They work on many hot-topic issues.

National Information Standards Organization (NISO) recently published guidelines for Patron Privacy in Digital Library and Information Systems (December 2015).

Common Sense Media offers advice, forums, and videos on

ReadersFirst: Librarian activists who work towards patrons’ rights, including privacy. A couple of articles:

Reset the Net provides a privacy pack for users on a wide range of platforms and devices: Macs, PCs, Android and iOS devices, and Linux. The tools offer apps and suggestions for maintaining privacy while browsing the web, online messaging/chatting, and having good passwords.

San José Public Library offers a Virtual Privacy Lab that includes toolkits and tips on privacy, security, social media, data mining, and more.


California privacy laws

This law is specific to California (August 2012), but it covers social media privacy for post-secondary students and employees. Both the senate and legislature bills were signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on September 27, 2012 — and the legal text is actually readable:

California also has a good law covering privacy of library records; quoting SB-445 California Public Records Act: library records — again, for legal text it is short and to the point!

SECTION 1. Section 6267 of the Government Code is amended to read:
6267. All patron use records of any library which is in whole or in part supported by public funds shall remain confidential and shall not be disclosed by a public agency, or private actor that maintains or stores patron use records on behalf of a public agency, to any person, local agency, or state agency . . .

Moreover, since 2011 California protects consumers’ reading privacy through the SB-602 Reader Privacy Act, regardless of book format or book vendor (“book service”):

. . . prohibit[s] a commercial provider of a book service, as defined, from disclosing, or being compelled to disclose, any personal information relating to a user of the book service . . .

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 Information literacy: Learning about privacy by Sarah Liberman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.