Category Archives: What Librarians Think About

New data protection rules

If you are on social media or have purchased goods online at any point, you’ve probably noticed the dozens of emails about new private policy user agreements flooding your inbox. After deleting all of them immediately (no shame), you should now take a quick look at what is actually going on.

Essentially, these emails are informing you on how the websites you use collect and share your personal information, and how that will change under the new European Union General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR for short. Read the article below from Wired to learn how these updated privacy regulations allow for more transparency and protection when handling your own data online.

Although the article is about the UK specifically, much of this applies internationally, since many websites service multiple countries (eBay, Facebook, Etsy, etc.)  Here’s an article from Forbes that explains the complex regulations from a US angle.

What is GDPR? The summary guide to GDPR compliance in the UK

General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, have overhauled how businesses process and handle data. Our need-to-know GDPR guide explains what the changes mean for you

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Europe’s data protection rules are undergoing sweeping changes. To keep up with the huge amount of digital data being created, rules across the continent have been re-written and are due to be enforced. From May 25, 2018, the new mutually agreed European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will update personal data rules.

GDPR will bring outdated personal data laws across the EU up to speed with an increasingly digital era. The previous data protection laws were put in place during the 1990s and haven’t been able to keep pace with the levels of technological change…..read more.


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Can your smartphone tell if you are stressed out?

As we navigate the fine balance between technological innovation and online privacy, some companies, including Facebook, are taking the initiative to develop algorithms that point to certain behaviors. The way we use social media, these companies are investigating, could reveal real life anxieties, bouts of depression, PTSD, and other severe persistent mental illnesses.  This type of data collection and assessment of our behavior is called digital phenotyping.

Does all of this stress you out? Or do you want your tech to potentially help with your well-being?

Read the following New York Times article below and see what you think.

How Companies Scour Our Digital Lives for Clues to Our Health

An emerging field, digital phenotyping, tries to assess people’s well-being based on their interactions with digital devices.

Some books are banned from Florida State Prisons – why?

You may not be surprised to learn that the American prison system censors the types of reading materials accessible to the incarcerated.  Banned books are an unfortunate, but incessant part of American history, and occur in many institutions including public schools, libraries, bookstores, and, yes, prisons. Take a look at the New York Times article below. This article makes a case that these bans are racially motivated. Do you think having access to all books is a basic human right?

Why Are American Prisons So Afraid of This Book?

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“In the eight years since its publication, “The New Jim Crow,” a book by Michelle Alexander that explores the phenomenon of mass incarceration, has sold well over a million copies, been compared to the work of W.E.B. Du Bois, been cited in the legal decisions to end stop-and-frisk and sentencing laws, and been quoted passionately on stage at the Academy Awards.

But for the more than 130,000 adults in prison in North Carolina and Florida, the book is strictly off-limits…..read more

Paying more and getting less: the Net Neutrality roll back plan

Are you frustrated with your cable or phone provider but live in an area where you have little choice? Get ready to be frustrated with the entirety of the internet in the same way.

The ALA (American Libraries Association) blog discusses the upcoming FCC vote to roll back protections that disallow ISPs (service providers – like Comcast or Verizon) from taking advantage of what they will allow us to see on the web or tamper with the quality of certain websites.

“…this new FCC order would create a world where ISPs are allowed to block, slow down and limit quality access to any websites or applications they want. ALA stands vehemently opposed to these actions; the draft order violates all the principles we believe are necessary for a free and open internet as well as fundamental library values.”

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Net neutrality protections eliminated in draft FCC order

Reads: "because the internet shouldn't have a slow lane. libraries transform"Last week, we highlighted a disturbing policy change that we had been anticipating for a while: Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Pai’s plan to roll back the net neutrality rules that require internet service providers to treat all internet traffic and services equally.

Between Thanksgiving preparations and leftovers, we have had some time to review this big turkey (220 pages worth). Below are some first impressions…..read more.

The myth of online privacy: if you are on social media, consider yourself exposed

Do any of you remember Friendster? Of course you don’t. I’m an “old,” so I have fond memories of being apart of one of the first large-scale social networking platforms that began in the early aughts. Friendster and MySpace are now defunct, or close to it, replaced by a dozen other social sites, with Facebook as the reigning champion with over one billion accounts worldwide. My old Friendster account is archived online and can be analyzed in a variety of ways, just as yours is today.

As a college student in 2017, you are probably apart of at least one of these social networking sites. You may think your profile is fully private (please adjust your settings if it’s wide open – employers can and will look you up!), but the truth is that if you have friends online, certain kinds of information about you can be gathered, even if you aren’t on Snapchat or IG.

If you’re interested in media studies and would like to write about “social media” as a contemporary phenomenon, consider privacy issues. Read the article below and see what you think.

On social media, privacy is no longer a personal choice

Social networks can make predictions about people, based on information from their friends

……..“It’s a good illustration of an issue we have in society, which is that we no longer have control over what people can infer about us,” says Elena Zheleva, a computer scientist at the University of Illinois in Chicago. “If I decide not to participate in a certain social network, that doesn’t mean that people won’t be able to find things about me on that network.”

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UT TED Talk: Predatory Publishing, Panel Presentation

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On the proposed elimination of the Institute of Museum and Library Services

Museums and libraries in America, institutions that largely depend on federal funding, are in danger of closing their doors. If you like visiting the Tampa Museum of Art, the Florida Aquarium, or you’re one of the many people that depend on your hometown public library, this is a cause for concern. A message from the American Library Association:

WASHINGTON, DC — In response to President Trump’s proposal to eliminate the Institute of Museum and Library Services in his FY2018 budget, American Library Association (ALA) President Julie Todaro today issued the following statement:

“The President’s proposal to eliminate the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) in his FY2018 budget just released, and with it effectively all federal funding for libraries of all kinds, is counterproductive and short-sighted. The American Library Association will mobilize its members, Congressional library champions and the millions upon millions of people we serve in every zip code to keep those ill-advised proposed cuts from becoming a Congressional reality.  Libraries leverage the tiny amount of federal funds they receive through their states into an incredible range of services for virtually all Americans everywhere to produce what could well be the highest economic and social “ROI” in the entire federal budget.

“The Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funded through IMLS is the primary annual source of funding for libraries in the federal budget. IMLS distributes the majority of LSTA funds to every state in the nation according to a population-based formula. Each state library determines how to best spend its allocated federal funds, which must be matched at the state level. The range of services provided to millions of Americans through LSTA grants is matched only by the creativity of the libraries that receive them: veterans transitioning to civilian life, small businesses seeking to expand their business online, summer reading programs, resources for blind and hearing-impaired patrons, resume writing and job skills workshops and computer coding courses to teach youth 21st century job skills.

“America’s more than 120,000 public, school, college and university and many other libraries are not piles of archived books. They’re trusted centers for education, employment, entrepreneurship and free inquiry at the core of communities in every state in the country – and in every Congressional district. And they’re staffed by the original search engines: skilled and engaged librarians.”

Free Speech or Hate Speech?

UPDATE: Seems like a line was drawn over the weekend. Simon & Schuster cancelled Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos’ book deal, as debated below.

The following news story from about a month ago (Jan 2017) tackles the argument: do publishers, in this case Simon & Schuster, get to decide what is published despite a clear concern that the book may contain flagrant hate speech? In a university, there are policies enforcing the rights of free speech amongst students and faculty in the classroom to encourage critical nuanced debate. What do you think about the arguments brought up in this article to address this particular situation?

 Excerpt from the article:

“Trying to suppress hateful speech doesn’t make it go away,” says [Joan Bertin, executive director of the NCAC]. “I mean, I think the whole idea of free speech requires us to be active participants, and when we hear ideas that we think are bad and harmful, it requires us to say ‘why,’ not just say ‘shut up.'”

But publisher Dennis Johnson says another equally important right is at stake here: The right to protest.

“This is not about censoring right wing voices,” he says. “This is about combating hate speech and its entry into the mainstream.”

Net Neutrality: What it is, and how it may change

If you are one of many people in the US who use the internet (and if you’re reading this right now, that’s you!), you probably need to understand what net neutrality means. Here is the Wikipedia article definition: “Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers and governments regulating the Internet should treat all data on the Internet the same, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication.”

Just 6 months ago, the The U.S. Court of Appeals, under President Obama, backed the FCC’s defense of a free, open, and neutral internet, with certain regulations tacked on to protect this neutrality. You can read more about it on whitehouse.gov.

What will happen under the new 2017 administration? If you like the freedoms of an Open Internet (or simply a fast broadband network), you should be concerned. But, as always, there are two sides to any argument. Take a look at the article below published from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). The article links out to many other sources to assess Trump and the new administration’s views. Why do you think they are against net neutrality? Who are the major parties involved? Is the language for an anti-neutrality stance confusing? Read this Atlantic article from 2014 for even more information about the debate, and this Forbes article arguing against net-neutrality.

Trump and His Advisors on Net Neutrality

December 19, 2016 | By Kerry Sheehan

Through the combined efforts of EFF and a coalition of public interest groups — and four million of you who wrote in to the FCC — we won carefully tailored and essential net neutrality protections in 2015 and defended them in court in 2016. But how will the incoming Trump administration impact net neutrality in 2017? We’ve collected a range of statements on the positions of Trump, his transition team, and those who are likely to guide the new administration on this issue.

Trump took a swipe at net neutrality in a November 2014 tweet, stating, “Obama’s Attack on the Internet is another top down power grab. Net neutrality is the Fairness Doctrine. Will target Conservative Media.”

The Republican Party platform [PDF] was also critical of net neutrality, and Trump’s transition team is stocked with staunch opponents to net neutrality.

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Censorship Friday: Why many banned books deal with diversity and minorities

alexieThere are books that address the experiences of marginalized groups in the US, books that bring to light the stories of immigrants, of the LGBTQ community, of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas, and other non-white race/ethnicities that make up a significant part of our country. Many of these books, especially YA and children’s’ books, unsettle those who don’t affiliate with these groups. In the article below, the author uses statistics from other recent studies to highlight the fact that diverse books are often targeted for censorship. She points to novels such as Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which the library has in the collection (find it on the second floor, PS3551.L35774 A27 2009).

Banned Books Are Often Diverse Books. Check the Stats.

This year’s Banned Books Week theme, diverse books, has been on my mind for some time.  As Jamie LaRue, director of the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom, has noted, defining diversity is difficult.  However, the definition used by the organization We Need Diverse Books is succinct and inclusive: “We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities.”

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