The Unquiet Librarian
By Virginia Roberts
Director, Rhinelander District Library
When you get a library card, do you ever wonder what the library does with your information? Just so you know, staff is trained to keep it—and your current items checked out as private as possible. This is why we might ask questions like, “Have you moved or changed your phone number?” rather than, “What is your address and phone?” so to prevent the announcement of same in the cavernous space about the library desk. Also, unless you keep your previous items logged in your V-Cat online account—the library—no library—should have a record of anything checked in beyond a small while. This is all for your privacy.
January 28 is Data Privacy Day. https://www.staysafeonline.org/data-privacy-day/ Here are some of the things I do—and tell others to do to keep data private and technology safe.
Let’s start with the phone. Think back, way back to the days of party lines and no area codes. I’m sure the world seemed very large—but your home town may have seemed very small—why? Well, because everyone could be in everyone else’s business on a party line or via a switchboard. A local operator who could keep their mouth shut locally was worth their weight in gold! Until automated switchboards came about, privacy here was not a given. Now, with call screening–your television and phone all bundled (so incoming calls are flashed on the TV screen) and cell phones letting you know the incoming number—all with answering services and voice mail capabilities—there is NO REASON to take a call from a number you don’t recognize.
One thing I will say about your PC/Laptop/Tablet/Smartphone: Back it up to an external hard drive. Delete all sensitive data about once a month (or once a week if you are a heavy user). Not to be absolutely paranoid here, but there are data pirates who will lock you out of your computer and hold your data for RANSOM. Think it doesn’t happen here? It happened at the library. We just happen to keep all our important files (like your information) elsewhere. You do it too, please. We still had to pay to have the ransomware scraped off the library’s laptop.
Email is pretty pervasive these days as well. It seems that almost everyone has access to an email account—even if it is their children’s. Most places require you have one for job application, receiving bank information, keeping up with your car maintenance, or well, backing up your phone or social media accounts.
Here are a few recommendations:
1) Delete unnecessary emails.
2) Create folders for emails you want to keep—some with clear names, other not so much. “Family Photos” is probably all right unless you are with the Witness Protection Program, where as “Banking,” “Accounting,” or “Taxes,” or “Loans” not so much. Find a more clever title, if you must, like Brain Droppings or Pet Sounds.
3) Better still, print important documents to save them—then DELETE the emails. Save things to at least two external sources. Do NOT save sensitive documents on your computer hard drive—too hackable. Then, trash the trash.
4) Look in your spam/junk email once in a while to see what’s considered icky. Don’t open anything up. Really, truly, just don’t open anything, no matter how cool that “one weird trick to reduce your belly fat” might look in the subject line.
5) Get a back-up email. And check it regularly. Duplicate your address book on it–because if you do get hacked—you will get your own spammy email, and you will want to be the one to warn your friends—not the other way around. Immediately change your password on the hacked account to something fairly complex and annoying (for you and the hacker). If it’s a device you use all the time in public, go ahead and save the username and password to that computer to prevent some keystroke counting maniac from getting your password.
Assessing data privacy, it appears I may be a bit of a social media addict, as well. I have all kinds of personal rules for social media I will leave to another time, but a couple I find important enough to mention now. Respect other’s right not to be part of the social media thing—and don’t assume they are. Do not tag folks without permission. I do not and never have posted family photos and do not mention them by name (rarely mention them at all) on my page. They are entitled to their anonymity. Honestly, in the case of my children—and frankly my mate, a well-regarded professional in his own right—I am just happy they’ll be seen with me, I don’t need to further embarrass them in public by posting their pictures everywhere.
I have a public page, open to everyone, which is linked to the Rhinelander District Library page (recommended). I also have a page so locked down I won’t friend anyone new there. And that is my advice to you: Friend who you like but lock down your page. Make the settings, the photos, the posts, everything to Friends only or tighter. Because people will take advantage of you.
Searching the web can be a bit daunting, too. I recommend leaving important searches to a pro—like a librarian, and the fun searches, like those on the host of recently deceased musicians, outside of your professional life.
Still confused? Worried? Completely panicked? Don’t be. The library has books to help. One of the latest is Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World of Scammers, Phishers, and Identity Thieves, by Adam Levin. See the earlier mentioned website for even more and better tips and how-tos. And your library staff are no slouches here either. We’re here to help. So enjoy your technology. Really. Just be careful.