By Heidi Hoogstra
Hollywood Library clerk
As I prepare to talk to you about privacy, I must confess I am terrible at it. Are you like me? For instance, do you know you ought not click on an unexpected link in email, yet sometimes you do?
You’ve been using the same password how many years? Yep, me too. I haven’t yet used a password manager because I’ve been confused about how it would help keep me safe, plus where do I find the time to set that up?
You know what I’m talking about. Meeting our privacy needs can be inconvenient.
But it’s important, and not just for safety and financial security. As libraries have long recognized, a form of censorship occurs when people want privacy and can’t get it: We limit our actions and voices, and refrain from seeking knowledge that would attract attention. Without privacy, our freedom is stifled.
Recently, I went to a class on digital privacy given by a librarian named Alison with Library Freedom Project. Privacy is like health, she said. There is no such thing as perfect privacy in today’s world, but we can practice privacy the way we practice good health habits, knowing we simply can’t achieve perfection.
Here are some tips and tools to help you practice privacy, from the Library Freedom Project:
Search engines and browsers
Google Chrome has the best security of the popular browsers. Each tab in Chrome is sandboxed, or isolated from the other tabs, so security breaches can be contained. It’s good for banking security.
Disable Flash to avoid bugs. (No, you don’t need Flash for your browser to work.)
Google knows everything about you, and personalizes your search accordingly. If you want a search that doesn’t do that, try www.search.disconnect.me. (This can be useful even if you aren’t concerned about privacy.)
Of the web-based email providers, Gmail is more secure than the others.
If you don’t use desktop encryption software, consider your email not to be private.
Use a password manager. A password manager stores all your passwords, and you just need to remember one very secure password. To create that one secure password, find five random words.
Beware of pseudo-random choices, such as objects sitting next to you. Use a random word list to find them. Your new password is all of these words together with no spaces (for example, “correcthorsemuffinbatterystaple”).