Privacy Tool Kit

Tips for Ensuring Privacy

Tips for Ensuring Privacy

  • You should know that there are many laws protecting your privacy. These can be found at the federal level in the Constitution and in numerous federal laws, at the state level in state constitutions and other legislation, and even at the local level in municipal ordinances.
  • Libraries should have an easily accessible privacy policy that tells patrons about the type of records kept by the library, reviews the laws that protect library records for their jurisdiction, discusses conditions for releasing information to third parties (like law enforcement), and lists the security measures for protecting online privacy while using library Internet services.

Online privacy for everyone:

  • Don't select passwords that are easy to figure out, like your pet's name. Instead, use a mix of letters and numbers that don't have an obvious meaning.
  • Never put personal information (Social Security numbers, bank account or credit card numbers, passwords) in an e-mail unless you're using encryption software.
  • If sending personal information over the Internet, make sure that the form is secure. A common symbol for a secure form is a closed padlock in the bottom of your browser window. Also, look for a secure Web address that starts with https:// instead of http://. If you're not sure that the form is secure, don't send your information and look for a telephone number instead.
  • Look at a Web site's privacy policy to see how the site uses the information you give them.
  • Sites are not supposed to collect more information about you than they need for the activity you want to participate in. You should be able to participate in many activities online without having to give any information about yourself.
  • If a site makes you uncomfortable or asks for more information than you want to share, leave the site.
  • Use the browser's cookie notification feature and don't accept cookies from places you don't trust.
  • Opt out of sharing your information with third parties.
  • Don't reply to spam (i.e., unwanted e-mail)—it will just confirm your address for them.
  • Create a separate e-mail address to use when filling out forms.
  • Don't give out your full name, address, phone number, or location in chat rooms.
  • Know that spyware (i.e., hidden programs that track your computer usage) exists and is probably lurking on your computer. Use one of the free utilities like Ad Aware or Spyware Blaster to periodically check your computer and remove unwanted programs.

For families:

  • Parents and children should use the Internet together. If parents are unavailable, they should talk with their children about the sites that were visited.
  • The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) governs how Web sites and online services may collect and use personal information about children. Under COPPA, Web sites and online services directed to children under age 13 must do the following:
    • Post a privacy policy at all access points to the Web site or service.
    • List the type of information collected from children, and explain how it's collected—through direct questions, through cookies, etc.
    • Explain how the information will be used by the Web site and whether it will be provided to third parties.
    • Provide parents with contact information—address, phone number, and e-mail address—for all sites and services collecting or maintaining children's personal information.
    • Get permission from parents before collecting, using, or disclosing personal information about a child.
    • Allow parents to review, correct, and delete information about their children collected by sites and services.
    • Maintain reasonable procedures "to protect the confidentiality, security, and integrity of personal information collected from children."
  • Families should consider having both parents and children sign family "Internet contracts" such as those developed by the GetNetWise program. See: Tools for Families: Make an Internet Use Agreement with Your Child.

If you have a complaint about privacy violations:

  • Contact the Federal Trade Commission.
  • Contact your state attorney general's office for guidance on privacy laws in your state.

Selected links:

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, esp. the "Fact Sheet 18: Online Privacy"

"Fact Sheet 21: Children's Online Privacy"
"May be copied and distributed for nonprofit, educational purposes only"

Top Ten Online Privacy Tips from

Privacy Tips from the Better Business Bureau Online

12 Principles for Fair Commerce in Software and Other Digital Products