Social Software & Intellectual Freedom

Social Software & Intellectual Freedom
Sunday, 1pm
Presented by Jessamyn West

Naturally, there were two sessions I wanted to attend at this time slot – this session, and the Center for the Book session. In the end, even though I am quite well-acquainted with the world of social software, I chose this session; the intellectual freedom aspect is one I haven’t given tons of consideration in terms of librarianship.

First of all, let me point out the talk is available online at It’s an HTML presentation, and no special software is required to view it – so, have at it. Jessamyn also gave out a list websites she authors/contributes to, and a list of some of the social places she hangs her hat, in case someone new to social software wants to experiment and needs someone to “friend.” I thought this was a great idea.

Most of my notes are just that – notes – and are based on the slides in the presentation. The slides offer many links and additional info, so do be sure to take a look if you are really interested in the topic.


Also, I apologize in advance for the fact that the style isn’t consistent – I wrote this is several chunks before finally posting from home….

Jessamyn started by saying that the intellectual freedom part of the talk was going to focus on privacy.

Then we had a brief intro to social software in general:

· Exists on the internet (usually)

· Offers space to create a user “profile”

· Allows connections to other people (users)

Noted that DOPA (Deleting Online Predators Act) would like to restrict library and school access to social software sites.

Slide – Appeal?
Why use social software?

· There is a big push in libraries to “go where your users are”

· For her, personally, it is a matter of connecting and interacting “after hours” in a small, rural community that closes up shop at 8 pm

· “What’s changed while you’re away” – the interesting phenomenon of being enticed to return to a social site to see what has happened since you last checked in – the anticipation of which is often more satisfying than what actually happened. (I think this is a really neat concept – check out the link on the presentation for more info. on the book by Temple Grandin.)

Slide – Privacy?

· The issue of privacy is traditionally important to librarians

· The middle-of-the-road but extremely popular Big Three

MySpace, Face Book, and Flickr

· Talks about how age is important in determining safety and privacy concerns – what you post at 15 is different from what you might post as an adult, and may come back to haunt you at 18 if you aren’t thinking

· Data Mining – the practice of using info you have provided for advertising, marketing, and determining info about your online connections

· Talks about the paper that the original concept of Six Degrees of Separation is based on, and how “low tech” that experiment was as it was done by passing written notes hand-to-hand

Slide – Sites Such As?

· MySpace, Face Book, and Flickr – have millions of users – millions

· Talked about a paper by danah boyd that was essentially a class-based analysis of the users of MySpace and Face Book (which I personally found interesting, as I noticed that NONE of my “more financially successful” classmates from high school are on MySpace, but a few are on Face Book)

· Jessamym takes a look at the privacy policies of MySpace and Face Book and talks about the “We REALLY REALLY REALLY care about your privacy, BUT” syndrome

· Talks about how originally Face Book profiles were NOT searchable on Google, and now some of the basic profile IS searchable on Google

· Gives a demo of Face Book profile and notes that Face Book wants you to be specific when making social connections and giving information

Slide – Two Distinct Library Issues

· The Library’s Patrons

· The Library’s Employees

· Slide gives a link to the ALA’s Intellectual Freedom and Privacy Policy pages, and says that they are great resources


Slide – Tools We Use and Privacy Implications

· OPACS – patron info used to register/log-in

· Email – patron and employee info

· IM – keeps a log file of conversations
__________________________________ these three link to sample policies on the presentation – check them out.

· Google Toolbar – knows what you search and where you visit


Slide – Libraries Care Why?

· Outreach – scale (email vs. newsletter mailed out) – may reach more and different people

· Reference – via MySpace & Face Book (in a place you don’t control)

· User-generated – Blog comments, book reviews in the OPAC, Submitting info to the website

· There was some discussion about things like pictures of children on your library’s Flickr page – is it the same as pictures in your printed newsletter? What if the parents sign a release? Etc etc etc


Slide – We Must Be Cautious Why?

· We made a promise (to protect your privacy)

· We model decent practices

· Special digital divide consideration

· Recombining data leads to thing we may not have thought of


o Employers may search you on Google, Face Book, My Space

o Once you put stuff out there it’s hard (if not impossible) to get back


Slide – Laws to be Aware of

· Constitution (the expectation of privacy)

· COPPA – laws for children under 13 are completely different than for older children and adults, and you need to be aware of them

· HIPPA – medical

· State Library Privacy Laws – see ALA link which links to each state’s privacy laws

Slide – What Needs Nailing Down

Sample Privacy Policy

    • Data collection
    • Sharing
    • Retention (cache, database, etc)


Slide – What Sorts of Data?

  • Personal
  • Relational / Transactional
  • Behavioral


Jessamyn mentioned that she gets ads for Stowe (mountain) on some of her Face Book applications and says “They know I live in VT – but they don’t know that I don’t ski.”


Slide – Getting a Privacy Policy

  • Define your terms for novice users
  • It’s okay to set guidelines and acceptable use policies “we allow” in addition to “we don’t allow”
  • It’s okay to moderate
  • Update as necessary, but try not to be reactive


Discussion about updating policies as necessary, but not being TOO reactive to single complaints. In other words, attending to a complaint or concern does not necessarily have to mean re-writing or re-vising an entire policy.

Definitely see the last two links on this slide for more info.


Slide – For Further Reading

other people’s presentations

more social reading


My Conclusion

I thought this was a well-thought out, organized, and very informative session – and even more so if you are really new to the world of social sites. Lots of “food for thought” in terms of the types of questions you may want to ask yourself if you are thinking about using and/or “marketing” social sites in your library, your policies concerning technology you already use in your library (OPAC, etc), and resources that can help you gat a handle on the issues.

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