A while back I went to security workshop wherein privacy relating to library patrons was discussed. I came back with such grand plans! And thanks to having the freedom to act, I put made a few changes to our public internet stations.
- I made DuckDuckGo the homepage in the stead of the library’s site. This not only prevented false hits to our library’s website thereby making the stats I do monthly on how many hits the site had more useful but it also protected patron searching privacy. Where Google tracks every search you do, DuckDuckGo does not.
- Since the FireFox browser is run by a nonprofit and one who trumpets privacy, I thought it made sense to make this the default browser.
- I added a number of plugins to prevent popups and tracking
- DuckDuckGo Search Bar- an extension that does the same as the above site but allows patrons to just search in a little box next to the address bar, thus negating the need to go to the website to search privately.
- AdBlock Plus- an extension that prevents the popups that got passed the native popup blocker from, um, well, popping up.
- Disconnect.me- an extension that blocks ad brokers from throwing ads at the user and thus slowing down or obscuring browsing. It also blocks tracking for 3 of the most notorious of trackers: Google, Facebook, and Twitter.
- Terms of Service, Didn’t Read- an extension that grades websites based on the tracking and other privacy factors in the site’s terms of service, because who actually reads those things?
These changes helped quite a bit when we were on a slow ISP connection. But when we switched to fiber, they started causing more problems than they solved. A lot of sites serve content in a manner that is treated like an add. Youtube and Ancestry.com were the most common culprits. In order for a patron to actually make use of the site, I had to disable one or more of the aforementioned extensions. Not only that but when certain mail providers upgraded their UI, certain features were getting blocked.
So I made the tough call to uninstall all plugins but Terms of Service, Didn’t Read. In fairness to the plugins, I’m sure that future versions will improve to allow such troublesome content, but I just can’t afford to wait. There’s enough on my plate that I need to put services in place that are self-sustainable. This turned out to not be the case. But who knows, in the future I may reinstall the stuff because patron privacy is important to librarians.