LFI.3 Week eight discussion

Hi all, here’s the recording from our discussion with Jasmine McNealy: https://vimeo.com/412441461

Let’s have a general discussion about the themes that came up in this talk, surveillance infrastructure, how it gets created, who it impacts, what we do about it, and any other thoughts we have from the lecture.

One of the points of the discussion that jumped out at me was the description of accelerated loss of liberties. We saw a fairly quick response to 9/11 but since everything about everything is hyper-accelerated now we are dealing with the fast pace that is so difficult to keep up- how do we learn about something and organize against it in the short time period before it is implemented and widely accepted? How do we organize and disseminate information to help others question and push back within these short timeframes? The question of how to dismantle becomes even more challenging with not only a lack of transparency but intentional distraction/diversion with misinformation and disinformation and then combined with the accelerated pace.

As I continue to be overwhelmed with where to start and how to answer these questions and how to approach it, I really liked Jasmine’s answer about how to start in speaking with people about privacy- starting out with asking what device is used the most and focusing on that- seems like a good way to approach trainings/discussions and instruction- making it personal and also more relevant individually in order to help with the understanding of the importance of asking the questions about data and thinking about privacy.

Thanks for talking about this! I wasn’t really thinking about it during the lecture…I think I get so overwhelmed by the pace of new technologies and new tweaks and applications on older ones that I can glaze over about it all a little bit.
It strikes me that a lot of our job as communicators/educators/reference is sorting through the chaff and the noise to figure out what is strategic to fight and what is important to learn about with our communities. I’m grateful for resources like the EFF that help us do this, and LFP as a forum where we can help each other do this. But yeah, I worry about being late to the game, and not hearing about things until they are already in place. It’s so much easier to push back on something before it’s adopted. Still worth it afterwards of course, but harder to win. Actually I’m typing that thinking about gas pipelines as an analogy, and also thinking about the recent privacy wins in California… so maybe I’m wrong. Anyway, that rambles, but what I’m taking away from your comment and going to think about more is how to be strategic in figuring out what potential surveillance to go after or promote education around.

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Oof it’s so hard. Even the huge and well-resourced organizations like EFF and ACLU struggle with this. But I think here’s where we get some advantage of having a fairly small community (library workers) who generally tend to know each other, and generally agree on best practices. We can have an influence on this world as a start.

A bunch of us just worked on a petition that outlines our reopening demands, and we said something about how we won’t allow any new surveillance tech to be implemented unless it’s proven to help detect covid and if it meets all these policy demands. Any of the tech we’ve seen can’t meet any of those demands (we worded it this way instead of asking for an outright ban to help move some people from the center over to our position). If we get enough attention on this, it could inform library policy.

It’s important also to recognize that just because things get implemented doesn’t mean the fight has to be given up. It just makes it harder. I really think that libraries can be nodes of better practices that join together in greater strength to resist surveillance technologies.

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This is probably the most optimistic and inspiring idea I have read in a while, that makes me feel a lot better in many ways. In the wake of a crisis like we are living through, it is easy to get distraught about what we have talked about in our meetings (shock doctrine, etc), and it is hard not to feel almost oppressively cynical. However, the idea that we can break this issue down to something specific that we deal with - the library community, and that we are a group that are thoughtful and tend to look out to one another for guidance and rely on one another, makes making a different feel more manageable and possible.

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The evolution of information in this pandemic is indicative of the modern age - echo chambers are forming and people are becoming hardened to new information. Libraries and librarians will once again be called to keep information in the conversation - or rather the interpretation of information, as well as the openness to new information as well. Increased surveillance structure is coming but for the time being it looks to be focused on cell phones. Many people operate in the world without a cell phone - my kids, older generations, people w/out the resources to buy a phone, or people w/out the resources to have a new phone - so some people are already opted out. Some people can choose to opt out of cell phones all together.

This is all I hope to achieve with Library Freedom Institute!

I loved this lecture because Jasmine talked about her efforts to kind of infiltrate the curriculum with these topics. I think it’s so important for us to do that, especially at institutions or in majors where there’s a traditional STEAM focus, because so many of those classes/instructors just do not have any room for or interest in exploring the social aspects of what they’re teaching. At Olin, a group of students led by a few professors, one of whom used to work on Facebook News (but left after understandable disillusionment) are pushing to incorporate what they’re calling “context & ethics” into every class. Some of the faculty are getting on board with that much more readily than others, but where it’s happening, it’s been great to see.

I’m trying to be as supportive as I can be for these efforts as well, though we have a very irritating staff/faculty divide that makes efforts like this harder than they should be (and I expect many of us are in that boat, even if y’all have faculty status). But even despite that, I’m finding my little ways to break in - working with our Public Interest Technology club to lead a book group (we just read Parable of the Sower and before it, Ruha Benjamin’s Race After Technology), doing campus-wide reads of books like How to Do Nothing, specifically developing our collection in these directions and creating displays, etc.

Anyway, I think one of the most important things for library workers to keep firmly in mind right now is the need to educate our peers and keep pushing them on issues like health surveillance, where there is both an ethical and a job creep impact. On our statewide listserv, there was talk of helping with contact tracing because “libraries are perfectly suited for it.” What does that mean, exactly? Exactly what makes us “perfectly suited” to do this work? And what are the ramifications of that?

Our profession should be better suited to this work than many, as we are with valuing privacy protection in general, but I personally encounter regular resistance to upholding privacy vs. convenience in the field. Has anyone else found themselves running into this challenge? What has helped you push back on it?

I feel the same way where I feel I am often encountering regular resistance when it comes to privacy vs convenience. Sometimes it is very disheartening too, as it is not a matter of something being too difficult or time consuming to do, but that it would require something to be done at all.

I suppose my problems come in two groups - there are those who are unfamiliar with privacy issues, but are generally receptive to them when they hear about them. And those that just do not want to do anything about them.

There is also the other issue of IT taking issues seriously, but often times in large library systems like where I work, they are just do not have the resources to tend to every issue.

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Yes! I’ve been seeing more conversations in these areas, particularly within the association spaces, I agree with this.

Love this and love that students are pushing for it in particular.

So important to push back on these kinds of assumptions, and in my experience pushing back usually reveals the emptiness of the argument in the first place! People are saying things that they’re not really ready to defend!