I love working the front desk and my boss is kind enough to put me on the front desk at least three to four hours per day. Today, I’ll be on-desk for five hours. Like you, when I hit the desk, I need certain programmes and apps to do my job. I need the ILS, the cash management and POS system, email is a good thing to have open, and I need Chrome.
There’s never a desk hour that I don’t use Chrome to answer a question, get data, and generally help people. Like millions of librarians, I tend to help people through the use of Google.
Now then, props to Google for making everyone aware that there will be some serious changes to their privacy policies and that these changes are coming very soon. They went out of their way to tell you, right down to a forced log off, to force you to log in, and then presenting you with an information screen about the changes. That’s pretty cool. If Facebook forced you to log off for a privacy change or update, you’d get kicked off every other day.
Yesterday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation posted a how to on removing your search data from Google and why you should. I’m not going to reiterate their work, as it’s good work and you should just go read it. What I’m going to do is build on that for a second and tell you why you as a librarian need to remove that data.
I use Google all day, every day. I’m sure you do too. I don’t know about you, but I’m also signed into Google while I’m doing it. I check my Gmail, I’m dealing with Google+, setting up appointments using Google Calendar, and so on.
And I’m also searching for information regarding patron queries while I’m signed in. What that means is that there is data within my own data set that has nothing to do with me. There are laws, ethics, and all kinds of reasons why patron information is confidential and, until March 1, 2012, that information on Google is confidential. After March 1st, Google will use that data to build a better Google which means offering you better ads, recommending videos, and that kind of thing.
But that data isn’t mine, or at least part of it isn’t mine. It’s data that was generated helping a library patron. I propose to you that such data, for all intents and purposes, belongs to the patron. That data wouldn’t have been generated if not for the patron, just like a library card wouldn’t have been generated if a patron hadn’t applied for one. Since we, as librarians, are tasked with protecting patron information, we need to protect that information too.
So, unless you never, ever log into Google and then search Google for patron queries, I really think you need to head over to the EFF and follow their very simple instructions for deleting and locking your Google search history. It takes less than five minutes to do this and, at the end, you’re not only protecting your data, but those of your patrons as well.