New ALA Guidelines and Zoom Update

Welcome to this week’s Tip of the Hat!

In case you missed it – last week ALA announced a trio of new guidelines for libraries concerned with patron privacy during the reopening process as well as libraries who use security cameras at their branches:

Guidelines for Reopening Libraries During the COVID-19 Pandemic – Theresa Chmara, J.D. guides libraries with planning reopening procedures and policies, including requirements around wearing masks, health screenings of both patrons and staff, and contact tracing. While these guidelines are not legal advice, these guidelines should inform your discussions with your local legal advisors.

Guidelines on Contact Tracing, Health Checks, and Library Users’ Privacy – This statement from IFC reaffirms the importance of patron privacy in the reopening process, including giving newly published guidelines around contact tracing at the library. The statement also directs libraries to the Protecting Privacy in a Pandemic Resource Guide, which brings together several privacy resources for libraries to incorporate into their reopening processes, as well as the expansion of existing patron services to online.

Video Surveillance in the Library Guidelines – Libraries who use security cameras should review their existing policies around camera placement, recording storage and retention, and law enforcement requests for recordings considering the new guidelines. There are also sections around patrons filming library staff and other patrons which public libraries should review regarding staff and patron privacy and safety.

Take some time to review the above guidelines and discuss how these guidelines might affect your library’s reopening or use of security cameras in the building!

Zoom Update

Zoom reported that they will not provide end-to-end encryption for free-tier users so Zoom can comply with law enforcement. Now that you know how Zoom will respond to law enforcement requests, does their stance line up with your library’s law enforcement request policy, as well as your patron privacy policy? If not, how will your library adjust your use of Zoom for patron services? One option is to not use Zoom, but as we covered in previous newsletters, Zoom is arguably one of the user-friendly video conferencing software in the market. Nonetheless, there are alternatives out there that do a better job protecting privacy, including Jitsi. If you must use Zoom for patron services, check out the Zoom Security Recommendations, Settings List, and Resources document from LDH’s Remote Work presentation in April to help you secure your Zoom calls.

Week Roundup – In The News and What Would You Do?

Welcome to this week’s Tip of the Hat! Last week was a busy week. Here’s a recap of what you might have missed.

LDH in the News

What Would You Do?

One public library in New Jersey has been finding various ways to support their community while the library building is closed, but one strategy has started a debate on Library Twitter – using patron data to do welfare checks:

Recently, the Library decided to take more direct action to help the Roxbury community. Armed with its enormous patron database, library staffers are going through the list and, literally in descending order, calling the oldest and most vulnerable of Roxbury’s residents to inquire on their well-being, let them know someone cares and will listen, and when need be to connect them to vital resources to get them through this difficult time.

The article goes on to describe how this strategy led to an increase in requests for masks to be distributed by the library.

While this single instance seems to have had a positive outcome, the use of the data collected by the library to do wellness checks brings up the question of “we could, but should we?” concerning using patron data in this manner. Some of the issues and considerations brought up on Library Twitter include:

  • Scope creep – several library workers serve as de facto social workers in their communities. How can libraries in this position support their community while working with local community organizations and local government departments who are better suited for social work? How can this work be done while honoring patron privacy?
  • Data quality – the article stated that the library staff used the age listed in the patron database. How reliable is that data? ILS migrations and even the move to an automated library system can introduce data quality issues in the patron record, including age.
    • For example – one library that moved from a paper-based system to an ILS in the mid-1990s still found patrons whose birthdays were listed as the date of the migration years later.
  • Notice and consent – patrons have certain expectations when giving data to libraries. Some of these expectations come from what the library states in their privacy and confidentiality notices, as well as other communications to patrons from the library. It’s safe to say that libraries don’t list “wellness checks” in their patron privacy notices as one potential use of patron data. This gets into the issue of using data outside of the stated purposes when the data was exchanged between the patron and the library. Recent data privacy legal regulations and best practices address this by requiring businesses to inform about the new use and to get affirmative consent before using the data for said new use.

There are some other items brought up in the Twitter discussion, such as different expectations from patrons, the size of the community, and patron-staff relationships. Some patrons chimed in as well! Like many other real-world data privacy conundrums, this one is not as clear cut in terms of how to best approach addressing the issue at hand – making sure that patrons in under-supported or vulnerable community groups get the support that they need.

We want to hear from you – what would you do in this situation? Email us at newsletter@ldhconsultingservices.com and we’ll discuss the results in a future newsletter. We will not post names or institutions in the newsletter results, so email away and we’ll do the rest to protect your privacy as we discuss patron privacy. Let us know what you think!

More Zoom Updates and Free Webinar About Remote Work and Data Privacy

Welcome to this week’s Tip of the Hat!

Zoom has had one of those weeks. Since we last wrote about Zoom’s privacy issues last week, the number of additional privacy issues has skyrocketed. It’s gotten to the point where there are news articles just trying to keep track of all these updates. Even those articles are struggling to keep up. On March 31, TechCrunch published an article that listed the known privacy issues at that time, including the misleading advertising of true end-to-end encryption for voice chats, but the article came out a day before an article about zero-day bugs found by an ex-NSA hacker that could allow access to passwords and webcam/mic control if someone had physical access to the computer. Then the next day we learned that Zoom leaked LinkedIn data to other users. Additional reports suggest that Zoom is a very good target for intelligence gathering and interceptions for various governments.

Like we said – it’s hard to keep up with all the updates! Security expert Bruce Schneier’s writeup on Zoom is the most up to date list at the time of this writing.

The best option, in this case, is not to use Zoom, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that clear cut. A conversation on Twitter about Zoom brought up the point that Zoom fairs better than other web conferencing software in terms of screen reader access. While Zoom might be a hot mess when it comes to privacy, it still provides access to those who otherwise wouldn’t have it with other options. Workplaces complying with privacy and accessibility regulations find themselves in a tightrope act with trying to protect employee and patron privacy while at the same time provide tools that their staff can use. Zoom announced that they are addressing the privacy and security issues, which if the company follows through on their promise would solve the issue in the short term. The longer-term issue remains, however, with web conferencing software that have better privacy practices are not accessible for users, including for library workers.

For now, the best you can do is to lock down your Zoom meetings as much as possible and to review user and administration settings to ensure that all privacy and security settings are enabled. Some universities have created publicly accessible guides to more secure Zoom meetings, such as this guide from the University of Washington, as well as FAQs on privacy and security, that can help you formulate messaging to library staff about using Zoom.

Webinar on remote work and data privacy, April 9th

LDH Consulting Services is proud to sponsor this week’s LITA webinar “A Crash Course in Protecting Library Data While Working From Home”. This free webinar will provide strategies and actions in protecting patron privacy for library workers working from home, as well as some of the longer-term implications to patron privacy with libraries moving all essential operations and patron services online for the foreseeable future. Attendees will have the opportunity to share what they are doing to protect data privacy while working from home. Register today!

Zoom and Privacy at the Library

Welcome to this week’s Tip of the Hat!

The amount that you spent web conferencing has most likely increased exponentially in the last few weeks. Library workers working from home now rely on web conferencing software for daily operations, including meetings and check-ins with other colleagues. With this shift to web conferencing, though, comes a shift in the level of risk to patron privacy.

Most libraries rely on third party web conferencing software which, like any other third-party vendor, brings its own set of risks to patron privacy. However, when you fundamentally change library operations to embed a third-party application into almost all parts of core operations, the existing privacy risks of that application change dramatically. You also introduce new risks into the mix! It’s already hard to keep up with all the risks to patron privacy in normal operations, and a rapidly changing work landscape compounds matters.

Let’s take Zoom, for example. Many libraries and library vendors use Zoom as their primary web conferencing application before the COVID-19 outbreak. That number only increased as many workplaces went remote, with many workers relying on their institutional Zoom accounts for both professional and personal online meetings. Other workers took advantage of Zoom’s generous free plan. What was once a tool used for webinar presentations and professional organizational group meetings, Zoom has become a lifeline for many remote library workers to stay connected to the library world for the foreseeable future.

With the increased use of Zoom came increased scrutiny of the application from the increasing number of remote workers in several industries. Soon after the shift to remote work started in earnest across the US, news media started reporting on privacy and security concerns with Zoom. One of the earlier news reports described Zoom’s “attention tracking” function, where an administrator can keep track of meeting participants who clicked away from the Zoom window. This level of tracking by the meeting organizer does not reach the level of other tracking software used by businesses to monitor employee productivity, but this tracking can still encroach on employee privacy. “Zoombombing” – the act of gatecrashing a public Zoom meeting and bombarding it with inappropriate material or attacks – is also on the rise, compromising the security of business and other meetings held by users who are newer to the platform.

Zoom’s data privacy practices have received increased scrutiny in the last week with the mass movement to remote work. In the same article about “attention tracking”, the reporter also touched on Zoom’s privacy policy’s vague language around selling personal data. The privacy policy has since been updated to remove the first sentence which caused the most concern, but the vague last sentence in the paragraph remains – “So in our humble opinion, we don’t think most of our users would see us as selling their information, as that practice is commonly understood.” – which is still a privacy concern. In addition, Zoom’s iOS App was sending user information to Facebook, which again wasn’t made explicitly clear in the privacy policy. Zoom released a statement that they will change the app to no longer send this information, but Zoom’s overall privacy practices and policies remain unchanged as described in this Twitter thread.

Your library might be using Zoom for business meetings, or it might be using Zoom for library programs, such as delivering online programs (like storytime or classes) or research/reference services. In both cases, Zoom might be collecting and processing patron data for their business purposes, increasing the risk of a privacy breach. You can take some actions to mitigate the new risks to patron privacy from using Zoom:

  • Use Zoom’s end-to-end encrypted chat feature [Update – the E2EE feature turned out to be false advertising.]
  • Limit the amount of patron data disclosed in Zoom, including text chats
  • Do not record video, voice, or text chats that involve patron data, including services to patrons conducted over Zoom
  • Do not share files with patron data over Zoom’s filesharing feature
  • Review privacy and security settings on the administrator, organizer, and user levels
  • Follow best practihttps://lifehacker.com/how-to-prevent-jerks-from-ruining-your-zoom-meetings-1842453487ces to prevent Zoombombing, including enabling the waiting room feature, limiting screen-sharing and voice controls (muting participants by default when they join), and locking the session when all attendees have arrived.

Limiting patron data disclosure on third-party applications is a challenge for a remote workforce. Choosing third-party applications with strong privacy and security practices is one of the best ways to mitigate privacy risks. Taking the time to assess privacy and security during a major global health crisis, nonetheless, doesn’t come naturally if you are not used to making critical privacy decisions under pressure. Settling into the new normal provides the opportunity to reassess data privacy and security practices in the workplace, including mitigating expanded or new risks to patron privacy. In the case of Zoom, limiting the amount of patron data transmitted through the application as well as making full use of privacy and security settings can help mitigate these privacy risks.

COVID-19 Updates And More Privacy Considerations

Welcome to this week’s Tip of the Hat, everyone.

It’s been a week for many of us as COVID-19 rapidly changed both work and personal lives. During the last newsletter, public events were still going on, schools and libraries were still open, and we were not in a pandemic. This newsletter is being composed in a completely different world in Seattle – closed schools and libraries, canceled events, and the realization that COVID-19 is much more widespread than previously thought.

This week, many libraries are closed to the public, while other libraries that are still open are being pressured to close to protect the health of their staff. This means staff might be working from home for the first time, or are trying to move in-person library instruction online. The Library Freedom Project provides a good list of privacy considerations for online instruction. Academic and school libraries should also be aware of the updated guide on FERPA and COVID-19 and how student privacy is impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the general world, healthcare professionals, as well as employers, are struggling to find a balance between personal privacy and disclosure in the context of HIPAA regulations.

The rapid developments of last week also presented a challenge – how do you protect privacy while at the same time keeping up with changes at work? Many work from home arrangements were hastily put together with less than 24 hours’ notice, leaving IT departments scrambling to figure out if VPN or other remote access to staff systems can handle the increased user traffic, but at the same time might not realize that the remote access method has a vulnerability, such as an unknown open port, or even providing access to internal applications without special logins or IP restrictions. IT staff should ensure that only staff can access work systems and network drives, including requiring VPN use to access these places as well as additional authentication and user access rules. In short, IT staff have their work cut out for them in the next few weeks. Nonetheless, there have been many guides published in the last week, like this one from NC Department of Information Technology, for people working from home and what they can do to protect their digital privacy and security.

On the public services side, online communications between staff might take a variety of forms, from an increased number of emails to online web conferencing. If the organization doesn’t offer an online group collaboration platform, like Microsoft Teams, staff might take to free third party applications, such as Slack, Discord, or your tried and true suite of Google products. Patron privacy might be compromised if patron data is shared on unsecured applications, as well as places that are subject to a public records disclosure request. Therefore, it’s a good time to remind everyone to keep patron privacy in mind in working from home, including limiting storing and communicating patron data to secure communication channels controlled by the organization.

It’s impossible to keep track of every COVID-19 development, and libraries have struggled to respond to these changes. With more libraries closing and trying to keep staff busy, we cannot forget that the choices we make during the COVID-19 pandemic will have long-lasting consequences on data privacy for some time to come. It’s hard to step back and take a breath to reassess where everything stands on patron privacy, but it’s worth the effort to take a few moments to go through the library’s response so far and ask how each response might put patron privacy at risk.