Snapchat and security

Libraries and librarians have proven to be early adopters of technology.

Concepts like “Web 2.0” (I really dislike that dated term) of social media, cloud computing, analytics, mobile technologies, or what have you, libraries have and will continue to embrace emerging technologies. This is great for a couple of reasons. Firstly, we’re reaching users and patrons at their level. As information professionals, we need to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of technology and how people are interacting with it. How can we assist users in finding stuff if we don’t know how to use what they’re using? Secondly, I think we’re in a time and age where libraries are hindered by economic, administrative, and public demands that its necessary to explore new technologies to make our jobs and the lives of our users easier. Need a new website? Let’s use a tumblr to host our site. Can’t afford an ILS or discovery tool? Let’s use the OCLC web API and see if we can code one ourselves.

I praise librarians for their early adoption of technology, even if its a failure. QR codes is an excellent example of a failed technology that libraries really tried to push for and use but fell flat on it’s face. We started using QR codes at our library, like many others, and our stats were a whopping goose egg. Regardless, it’s important to learn from these types of failures to help us prepare for future adoptions of technology.

My rant, however, is Snapchat. I don’t see any reason why a library should be using Snapchat. Snapchat is a messaging service that allows users to send text, video, or images to each other. What makes this different from other services is that this media, known as “snaps,” have a expiration date of 1-10 seconds. How can such a short expiration date be useful for interacting with our patrons? Turbo reference? One may argue that it could be useful for a secure reference transaction, but if something that sensitive is to be asked, why would you do that over a mobile device? Why not just call the reference desk? I also don’t see Snapchat useful for promotion or marketing, since that information will dissolve in a few seconds anyway.

What I do find Snapchat useful for is a lesson in privacy and security. Last year, there was a report about the vulnerabilities of Snapchat. Yesterday, this was confirmed with a leak of 4.6 million users’ information such as handles and numbers being exposed. The important take away is that even though libraries are adopting new gadgets and tech, we should remind our users the importance of security. Library Journal has an excellent article about using Snapchat as a form of digital literacy that advocates libraries to do more in educating users about privacy issues.

Apologies if you’re a librarian or a library that is currently using Snapchat. Maybe we can learn from this disaster and let our users know not to use the same handle and password for everything!

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