Pay-for-Privacy? Facebook, Apple Represent Opposite Sides of Simmering Digital Debate
In the digital age, people generate a blizzard of data with virtually every click and swipe. But how should that data be treated and protected? This week, we heard two opposing visions from two of the world’s tech leaders: Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg suggesting that users would have to pay to "opt out" of Facebook's targeted ads, while Apple CEO Tim Cook saying Apple views privacy as “a human right.”
The remarks underscore just how fractious the digital landscape has become, and comes as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg this week revealed in a Q&A with reporters that he would be appearing before Congress on April 11. Zuckerberg also revealed that the Cambridge Analytica data breach was worse than initial estimates—Facebook’s audit suggests that some 87 million users were affected, while initial news reports put that number at closer to 50 million.
Appearing on the Today Show this week, Sandberg told host Savannah Guthrie that there is currently no option for users to opt out of having their personal data harvested for Facebook's targeted ads, but if such an option were to exist, it would have to be “a paid product."
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Apple’s Tim Cook slammed Facebook in an NBC/ReCode event, which airs tonight, and suggested that creating such detailed personal profiles from people’s online behavior shouldn’t be allowed.
"The truth is we could make a ton of money if we monetized our customer, if our customer was our product,” Cook said, adding that Apple views privacy as a human right. “It's a civil liberty, and something that is unique to America. This is like freedom of speech and freedom of the press," Cook said.
Apple of course famously stood by that stance in the face of pressure from the government, refusing to help the FBI unlock the iPhone of the San Bernadino shooter in December 2015.
One area of agreement between Apple and Facebook: regulation, for better or worse, is likely coming. "I think the best regulation is no regulation, is self-regulation," Cook said at his town hall. But, he conceded, we are now “beyond that” and that it is “time for a set of people to think deeply about what can be done here."
Privacy, of course, is a core library value, and was a key topic of discussion at the recently concluded Public Library Association conference in Philadelphia. In a keynote, Tim Wu, author of The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads, told librarians that "the original sin of companies like Google and Facebook is that they all "tied themselves to this business of attention harvesting.” The result: “Facebook was forced by its business model to become a machine of mass surveillance, of time sucking, and mass manipulation.”
As the privacy issue continues to heat up, the library community could—and should—play a significant role in any upcoming debate over online privacy. And, there is a growing consensus that Congress will indeed have to act.
ALA: No Citizenship Question on 2020 Census
Speaking of privacy issues, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross recently announced that the Census Bureau would be adding a question about citizenship to the 2020 Census. That has raised serious concerns, and a number of legal actions to block the question—after all, how can we get an accurate count, as mandated by the Constitution, if those without citizenship are afraid of being rounded up and deported by ICE agents?
In a blog post this week on the ALA Washington Office’s District Dispatch, ALA’s Larra Clark noted that the ALA back in January joined a coalition letter opposing the inclusion of a citizenship question, noting that the question would “disrupt preparations” and “jeopardize the accuracy of the 2020 Census.”
While appropriating census data to round up non-citizens would be surely be illegal, a Washington Post article this week noted that there is a history of the government abusing census data. Lori Aratani writes that information from the1940 Census “was secretly used in one of the worst violations of constitutional rights in U.S. history: the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.”
In her post, ALA's Clark detailed a number of challenges facing libraries in the 2020 census—including the fact that for the first time it will be conducted primarily online. Hey, what could go wrong?
Regardless of how some key questions about the 2020 census are resolved, “libraries will be impacted,” Clark writes. And the ALA Washington office is encouraging librarians to share their “experiences with past Censuses and thoughts for the future” in comments here or by email directly to Gavin Baker and Larra Clark.
On Twitter, a Scottish Library Mystery Goes Viral
The internet was aflame this week with news of a library mystery: Georgia Grainger, a library assistant at the Charleston Library in Dundee, Scotland, took to Twitter on Tuesday to report that numerous books in her library’s collection contained a secret code involving a marker on page seven. When she reported the bizarre pattern to her manager, she learned the library's terrible secret...
In Celebration of National Poetry Month, PW Poetry Reviews Editor Alex Crowley Shares His Picks
It’s the start of National Poetry Month, so we asked our poetry reviews editor Alex Crowley to recommend three up-and-coming poets whose debut collections are causing a stir in the poetry world right now. Here are his picks:
Chen Chen, When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities (BOA): “As a gay, Asian-American poet, Chen casts his poems as both a refusal of the shame of sexuality and of centering whiteness or treating it as a highly desirable trait," reads PW’s review. "Readers encounter sharp, delightful turns between poems, as Chen shifts from elegy to ode and back again.”
Eve L. Ewing, Electric Arches (Haymarket): From PW’s review: “In this stunning debut, poet and sociologist Ewing brings to bear a variety of forms and mediums—including the prose poem, the lyric, mixed media collage, handwritten notes and ephemera, and the verse play—on set of related questions about the nature of art and politics.”
Javier Zamora, Unaccompanied (Copper Canyon): “Zamora details his experience emigrating from El Salvador to the U.S. at age nine in his timely and excellent debut," PW's review reads, "a heartbreaking account of leaving behind the grandmother who raised him to join parents he barely remembered.”
For more recommendations, check out the PW Poetry Tumblr.
Next Week is National Library Week...
According to NPD, the rising popularity of poetry on social media is driving a resurgence in poetry book sales in the United States.
In the New York Times, Tim Wu says don’t fix Facebook, replace it.
Via the Scholarly Kitchen, On Being Excluded: Testimonies by People of Color in Scholarly Publishing.
A Philadelphia library gets a climbing wall and the kids are loving it.
The Guardian lists 50 Fresh Voices You Should Read Right Now.
"Reference is a diagnosis; we find answers in what’s not being said,” writes librarian Kristen Arnett in her new column for LitHub.
On Howard Hayward: The Mystery Genre’s First Great Historian, via Crime Reads.
Today is #ArchivesDanceParty day on social media and it’s a lot of fun.
Knopf is looking for a senior publicist, promises a life of "sadness and defeat."
Fascinating stuff: The ten most cited sources on Wikipedia, according to the data.
U.C. Librarians: It’s time for the U.S. to get serious about funding open access.
James Somers in the Atlantic: The Scientific Paper is Obsolete.