Choose Privacy Week 2016: Resources for Teaching Privacy

Choose Privacy Week, Privacy, School Libraries

by Dorothea Salo
(crossposted from

If knowing about privacy-protecting practices is half the battle, teaching them to others is the other half. Many librarians in many contexts find themselves needing to teach patrons, students, or even each other about protecting privacy online. Fortunately, no one has to start from zero: many excellent teaching resources already exist. Those listed below, arranged by audience, are just the tip of the iceberg.


Higher Education

  • Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics offers a “Your Privacy Online” curriculum aimed at higher education (but also suitable for high school). A typical module includes readings, links, and discussion questions. The rest of their website is a rich source of readings, case studies, and other useful classroom material.

Public Library Patrons

  • Hold a CryptoParty! CryptoParties, despite the possibly-intimidating name that libraries should feel free to change, are meant to be low-stress, high-value explorations of everyday online privacy improvements.
  • San Jose Public Library has mix-and-match tutorials available in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese in its Virtual Privacy Lab.

Library Colleagues

Our own colleagues may be the most critical audience of all. No one alone can reach more than a fraction of the library’s patron base; the entire library staff, armed with best practices, can accomplish far more. Fortunately, the open web has several library-specific privacy resources, as well as materials librarians can use for specific privacy-related situations that arise.

  • ALA’s Privacy Tool Kit is a well-organized and thorough soup-to-nuts guide for developing and implementing library privacy policies.
  • The Library Freedom Project has a wealth of mix-and-match links to privacy-related material. The site is not ideal for those brand-new to privacy issues; the links are categorized, but not annotated or prioritized. Librarians working through what they need to teach colleagues brand-new to privacy issues, however, will be richly rewarded.
  • Dr. Jen Golbeck teaches a short course in online privacy literacy for CEU credit ($379) at Maryland.
  • The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Surveillance Self-Defense site is in-depth and technical, but well worth the time. The site is handily divided into “overviews,” “tutorials,” and finally “briefings” about specific situations that library staff or patrons may need to deal with.

A few specific issues

Now and then, specific privacy questions suddenly turn urgent. Two common ones:

Dorothea Salo is a Faculty Associate at the iSchool at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she teaches courses in IT, organization of information, and publishing/scholarly communication.

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