From the Office of Information Technology Policy

of the American Library Association

(With many thanks to the Federal Trade Commission, Center for Democracy & Technology,

Electronic Frontier Foundation, and LearnTheNet,)


Privacy Policies: Read Them


Before you reveal any personally identifying information, find out how it will be used and whether it will be shared with others. Will you have a choice about the use of your information; can you choose to have it kept confidential? If you can't figure that out from reading a web site's privacy policy, or if there isn't one, you may want to think twice about providing personally identifying information.


Clean Up After Yourself: Delete History, Cache, Cookies, and Temporary Internet Files


As you browse, your cache stores Web sites you have visited so that your browser can store them locally instead of going to the Web site. Copies of all accessed pages and images are saved on your computer's memory. This helps to speed up your browsing on a private computer, but can also allow your habits to be tracked on a public one.


You can delete most of your online trail by simply going to the "Preferences" folder in your browser and clicking on the "Empty Cache" button. Sometimes this option is in the "Advanced" menu of the browser preferences. In Internet Explorer, go to "Internet Options" from the "Tools" menu and click on "Clear History". To make sure you get everything, before you walk away from a library computer, use the "find" menu, click files or folders, and search for "cookies" and "temporary internet" files. Erase everything the computer will let you erase in both files.


Setup Privately


In the library, few users will have personal information in the browser's "Setup", "Options" or "Preferences" menus, so their privacy will be somewhat protected. Home users and library staff who do not share computers may wish to use pseudonyms or otherwise decline to provide personally identifiable information.


Libraries may also wish to use an IP address in the browser, rather than "XYZ County Public Library," so as not to flag the visitor as someone with Internet access at the library.


Password Protection


Do not give your password to anyone. This includes parents, children, spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, best friends, tech support, and everyone else! Protecting your password is not about trusting another person, or not trusting them, it's about responsible use of the Internet and other library and computer resources.


Update your password on a regular basis several times per year. Do not use easy-to-guess passwords like your name, hometown, birthdate, or the names of your family members or pets. If you have to write the password down in order to remember it, keep it somewhere safe and private. NEVER post your password near the computer.




Websites that collect personal data may allow you to decide whether whether you want to receive e-mail or other marketing offers from them, and whether or not they can share your personal data with other companies. Typically, the user checks or unchecks a box on a web page, either agreeing to this or refusing to allow personal information to be shared. Members of the Trust-e and BBBOnline seal programs are required to offer consumers the opportunity to opt-out.




Parents and caregivers need to make sure that children know why privacy is important, and how to protect theirs. Children should never give out personally identifiable information online including name, address, phone/e-mail, school or team names, or any other information that might let someone identify the child or pretend to be someone the child knows. Set clear rules, explain why you have them, and enforce them. Make sure that children understand that these rules apply anywhere they use the computer the library, school, home, friends houses.