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Library Freedom Project Helps Patrons Protect Themselves Online

Jim Cole
Librarian Chuck McAndrew shows software, known as Tor network, at the Kilton Public Library in Lebanon, N.H., in 2016. The library was chosen as a test site for the Library Freedom Project.

Advocates for digital privacy are finding allies among librarians.

The Library Freedom Project trains librarians and advocates for measures that protect privacy, like laws banning facial recognition software.

Founder Alison Macrina spoke this week at Yale Law School. She said the project began in 2013 after leaks by CIA contractor Edward Snowden revealed extensive surveillance programs.

“I just got really interested in the surveillance and privacy problem, not just what we learned from Snowden but the specific ways that high-level stuff impacts local communities.”

Macrina says librarians can help people make their passwords more secure, protect their data from corporations like Google and Facebook, and even guard themselves from online stalkers.

She says privacy and intellectual freedom are among their professional standards.

“Public librarians in particular have these spaces that anybody can come and use. If you want to walk into a public library, you don’t have to be a taxpayer. You don’t have to have a home or a job.”

The program has trained more than 40 librarians across the country. 

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.