Archive for the ‘Privacy’ Category

Openness and Creativity (aka Librarians Like More Stuff)

Friday, August 28th, 2009

I was preparing a Pechua Kucha presentation for our library recently as part of a fun event before the start of a new semester that also was intended to remind us of why we do what we do. I ended up doing mine on the idea of openness, tieing it to Ranganathan’s Five Laws of Library Science and ALA’s statement of Core Values of Librarianship. I ended up talking about Open Source, Open Access, Open Data, and Open Educational Resources.  But the consistent theme that kept coming through – and I hadn’t set out with this in mind – was how openness in all these senses is the foundation for increased productivity and increased creativity. Librarians like openness because we like to have more stuff. More stuff for our communities to take and build on it to create even more stuff.

This idea is probably obvious to those who believe in the value of intellectual freedom, but it’s nice to have a reminder.

– Dan Lee

Google and Reader Privacy

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

One of the concerns raised about the proposed Google Book Search Settlement is the lack of any built in protections for user privacy. The library associations raised it as one of the issues the court should continue to monitor in their amicus brief filed with in May.  Now, the Electronic Frontier Federation (EFF), along with the ACLU of Northern California and the Samuelson Clinic at UC Berkeley, has written a letter to Google CEO Eric Schmidt calling for Google to implement specific steps that will protect users’ private online book reading in the same way that our print reading is protected.

Specifically, they are asking Google to protect readers’ records “by responding only to properly-issued warrants from law enforcement and court orders from third parties,” to delete their user logs after 30 days, to grant readers total control of the books they’ve purchased and their purchasing records, and to inform readers of what information about them is being collected and who it is being shared with.

These seem to be rather minimal expectation of reader privacy. If Google is going to become a bookstore, they ought to be bound by the same ethical standards that print boosktores practice. If you agree, EFF has also provided an easy mechanism for you to send CEO Schmidt your own customized message making this point.

– Dan Lee

An Extreme Take on Privacy

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

Vanish, the University of Washington’s new prototype for a “self-destructing data system”, is now available as a Firefox plug-in. Its creators say that “In many ways,  Vanish begins to approximate the ephemeral nature of a phone call.”

More here.

News & Tidbits

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

The International ACM Conference on Management of Emergent Digital EcoSystems (MEDES 2009) is accepting paper submissions. Among the topics covered are Security & Privacy, Open Source, and Digital Libraries. Here for more info about the requirements. Hurry! Papers are due by June 15.

Rutgers University’s legal clinic is in the throes of a legal debate concerning New Jersey’s open-records law. The debate, sparked by a developers demand for disclosure of client information, brings to light questions of transparency, privacy, and the potential diminished legal experience for both clients and student workers.

The reauthorized Higher Education Act requires accountability for the processes by which online students’ identities are confirmed. Educators had feared the language of the recently reworked act would require costly investments in technology that would verify that students were indeed taking their own tests. For the time being, the proposed regulations do not require anything further than secure log-in and password, an official from the U.S. Education Department said.

Google commits to launching ebook program by the end of 2009.

Opportunity Online provided a forum for discussion regarding the nation’s spotty broadband and how this affects access to information

Inaccessibility to details of the inner workings of certain universities’ college sports programs has prompted former U.S. Senator James L. Buckley calls for a revamping of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. The call is in large part influenced by these programs liberal interpretation of FERPA, which according to The Columbus Dispatch, allows for the extension of privacy “to athletes who have gambled, accepted payoffs, cheated, cashed in on their notoriety, and even sexually abused others.  It is extended to coaches who have broken recruiting rules or committed academic fraud at a time when the average salary for a head football coach is more than $1 million a year […]”

- compiled by X. Avalos

FERPA, Student Privacy, and Parental Rights

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. It applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.

“Education records” can cover grades as well as health and behavioral records. Interpretation of the law can differ by institution, but FERPA is increasingly being painted as a law that pits “students’ right to privacy against what some parents deem as their right to know.”

One catalyst for the discussion has been 19-year old Jason Wren’s presumably alcohol-related death. Wren had a disciplinary history with Kansas State University, but his parents had no warning of his behavior until after his death.

Does an individual have less of a right to privacy by default of being a college student? Where does the right to privacy interfere with an institution’s goal to keep its students safe?

- X. Avalos