How your local library can help you resist the surveillance state

Source: Melissa Morrone, Waging Nonviolence, July 8, 2014

….It’s pretty easy to find privacy tips online, but nothing compares to having a trusted and experienced person to guide you through the process of deciding what to install on your laptop or how to make your smartphone more secure. Libraries are an existing network that can be harnessed to create a society with the skills and resources to protect privacy and digital rights. Library workers can also grasp the utility of a flexible “digital harm reduction” framework that takes into account the fact that, for better or worse, people are going to be communicating with loved ones via Facebook, logging into their primary email accounts over our public WiFi networks and entering their Social Security numbers into government websites on computers that may not be their own. As Seeta Peña Gangadharan argues, “Data literacy can’t be taught by parachute or evangelism. The best thing would be to give resources to schools, libraries, and other community anchor institutions to teach this new material.” ….

If you’re knowledgeable about technology, consider proposing a workshop to your local library. Keep in mind that training a diverse group of adults, especially on a technical topic, involves more thought than simply preparing a procedural class that goes through individual tools. Be sure to explain the principles behind them and, crucially, how they fit into people’s worlds and why they should care. ….

Public libraries’ roles are currently evolving, with shifts to focus on digital resources, knowledge creation (in addition to consumption) and “making.” I think, amidst this re-imagining, we have to claim an educational role that meets the need for guidance in a confusing digital world. In addition to instructing people on using e-readers and dealing with two million search engine results, we should be supporting resistance to life under surveillance. Collective action can push us there, which means communities must demand these services and expertise from their libraries — along with levels of funding to ensure they are as autonomous as tax-funded establishments can be, including from the tech industry…..