Controlling your online data and privacy

In the wake of the ‘Facebook data scandal‘ it seems a pertinent time to write a blog post I’ve been thinking about for a while – sharing my tips and experiences for controlling my online data and privacy.

Some people may not have thought much about this until the news broke that Facebook had shared and used people’s data in some dubious ways (shock horror!), however, many librarians and people in the information services industries have been harping on about these risks for years.

So, if you haven’t already, what are some simple things you can do to get on top of your data and maintain your privacy online?

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The Old and the New

So it’s been four months since I last wrote, how time flies! I suppose one reason that I have written less recently is because of my new involvement with Twitter. Instead of saving up all my thoughts for a full blog post, I can throw them straight out in little micro-blogs and start an instant conversation. It’s been a great way to get more connected with the library community, and I’ve gotten to know some great people and learnt a lot of new things through using the platform. So I highly recommend getting on board if you haven’t yet – and then follow me @MissLibraryGrrl

2017 was an amazing year. I never realise how much I have achieved until I sit down and reflect on it, which is why I actually really value my end of year professional review. Writing out all the things I did to achieve my goals is so satisfying, and encouraging to see that I am heading in a positive direction.

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Facial Recognition

Continuing on a similar thread from the past few posts this year – let’s chat quickly about facial recognition.

It’s pretty freaky when you upload a photo to social media and the image is automatically tagged with the¬†people in it. Very accurately too. According to the article ‘Is Facebook’s Facial-Scanning Technology Invading Your Privacy Rights?‘ Facebook’s DeepFace recognition software has “an accuracy rate of 97.35 percent compared with 97.5 percent for humans”


I don’t ever remember being given a notification or option to ‘opt out’ of having my face recognised by this technology, and thus this is another example of our privacy potentially being invaded without us even thinking about it. Think how useful this type of information could be to an identity thief. Because you cannot change your face (unless you are willing to go super sci-fi and try out a ‘Face Off’ style scenario) this type of ‘biometric identifier’ can be used to link all sorts of information about you.

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Online Privacy

Let’s start the new year with a topic I’ve been keen to write about for a while now; online privacy.

First, online privacy matters. Yes, even if “you have nothing to hide”. Because really, you do have something to hide in a sense, otherwise you wouldn’t have curtains or wear clothes (as¬†Christopher Soghoian discusses in the TED talk/article). Amnesty International even goes so far as to label encryption as a human rights issue to protect and promote free expression (see Electronic Frontier Foundation).


According to Collier in Vocativ, “Plenty of people across Europe and the United States agree on the importance of keeping their data private. But according to a new survey, far fewer are willing to do anything to protect it.” Another article in Vocativ explains that many Americans are willing to give up their online privacy for more convenience in their online behaviour. Though these views seem to alter by age, and type of situation. For example younger people, especially when using social media, were more willing to accept the sharing of their personal information (for example to receive personalised ads).

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Social media decline in youth

I have never been a huge fan of broadcasting my private life on social media, and sometimes seeing the way people do so can be quite depressing. In some ways, I was concerned as to where the next generation would end up, constantly living in the public sphere like this.

But I am glad to be reading that the youth of today have greatly opted out of using social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and so on.

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A social networking site is not an open access repository

This article from the University of California entitled ‘A social networking site is not an open access repository‘ explains very clearly the difference between using an institutional open access research repository, and using an online platform such as ResearchGate or

As a Librarian I understand the importance of open access repositories for enabling the reuse and preservation of research data. However, I am sure for many academics and researchers this distinction may not be so clear – especially since a lot of it is in the platform’s fine print!

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