FOUR* things public libraries can do RIGHT NOW to protect their users

One of the things I often encounter when I talk to public libraries folk about privacy technologies, is the counter-argument that, in the UK, there is little we can do to actually protect our users’ privacy online (I’m very sympathetic to this having worked in public libraries). So I figured I’d have a think about some non-controversial things we can do.

1) Make Firefox the default on all public access computers. It’s open source which is a big plus (see Simon’s post here for why), not least due to its range of plugins.

2) Ad blocking. Firefox offers a range of ad blocking software. This is non-controversial (unless you are a corporation of course) and anyway, why do we wish to inflict ads on folk in a public space?

3) Make DuckDuckGo (DDG) the default search engine. DDG is a privacy oriented search engine which is just as reliable and user-friendly as Google (no, really). Making it the default is a no-brainer. It doesn’t track your users’ browser history (why would we want to encourage that?) and does not serve them adverts. WIN.

4) Use https on library websites, particularly the catalogue

There are lots more things we can do, I chose these four* specifically on the following criteria:

1) Politically non-controversial.

2) Will have minimal impact on users, even for folk who have never been online before (a key consideration) all of these tools are as simple to use as the alternatives.

3) There’s no requirement for any special software and it should be very easy for IT departments to make these happen. Of course, IT departments can be a nightmare, but I can’t see any reason why any of these alternatives would be problematic for them.

I’d be interested to hear of other tools that can meet the criteria above, do post your suggestions. And if anyone knows why these options are not possible in public libraries, I’d love to hear from you!

Alternatively, if you subscribe to the above, click here and send a message to the Society of Chief Librarians, the body that represents the senior librarian in each authority in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

* Was three, then number 4 popped into my head.