News & Announcements

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Libraries, Tor, freedom, and resistance

September 11, 2015 in media, news, projects

It’s been an exciting couple of days at Library Freedom Project. ProPublica broke the story of the Department of Homeland Security and the local police in New Hampshire intervening to try to shut down our Tor relay pilot at Kilton Library. We responded to this law enforcement harassment with a public letter of support for the library, signed by a broad coalition of organizations and individuals, and linked to it in an even bigger petition on EFF’s website. That petition has received over 1700 signatures in 24 hours, and media attention continues to increase (we’ve gotten coverage on EFF’s blog, Motherboard, and the Concord Monitor, just to name a few). Kilton Library has received dozens of supportive emails and calls, and the conversation on social media has been popping off — this incident has engendered a robust discussion around libraries and free expression, how we can publicly commit to those ideals, and how hard we should fight back when challenged. It’s also catalyzed a number of libraries to get in touch with us about participating in the exit relay project — talk about the Streisand Effect!

We’re amazed at how this has resonated with our broader community, and how much support we’ve received — librarians, privacy advocates, technologists, and more — and things are only just getting started. Nima and Alison, along with Devon Chaffee of the ACLU of New Hampshire, will attend Lebanon Libraries board meeting on Tuesday, September 15th, at 7 pm at Lebanon Library (the other branch of Lebanon Libraries). We hope to see members of the local community come out to that meeting and show their support for Tor, free speech, and free libraries. Supporters should also sign our petition to show the library that they have global support. For updates, keep an eye to Twitter: Alison is @flexlibris, Nima is @mrphs, and we are all at @libraryfreedom. After Tuesday’s meeting, we’ll update our community with the results of the board’s vote. Thank you all for your support, and for helping us fight the good fight. Resistance is possible when we all join together.

Guest post: How I set up GNU/Linux at my library

August 14, 2015 in resources, success stories

We’re really excited to share another post in our ongoing series of privacy success stories from librarians across the country. Today’s post is from Chuck McAndrew, IT Librarian at the Lebanon Libraries in Lebanon, New Hampshire. You might remember Chuck as the librarian with whom we worked to set up our Tor exit relay pilot just a few weeks ago. During our visit to Lebanon, we checked out Chuck’s fantastic GNU/Linux PC environment, and begged him to write up a why-and-how-to guide for this blog. We’re thrilled that he was gracious enough to oblige.

One quick editor’s note: at LFP, we try to make use of Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) whenever possible. The GNU/Linux distribution that Chuck uses is not totally “free”, hence his use of “open source” and not “FLOSS”, and some proprietary drivers and things like that were necessary to preserve the user experience. But we’re in agreement with what Chuck writes below: stepping away from completely proprietary software is a huge step for a library — especially considering how many libraries are dependent on restrictive Windows environments — and ideological purity around perfectly “free” software ignores the usability issues that sometimes come with free software. Chuck’s helping his patrons use software that’s more free than anything most libraries are using, and we think that’s pretty impressive.

We hope Chuck’s success and his helpful how-to guide will inspire other librarians to introduce GNU/Linux into their libraries. Got your own success story to share? We’d love to hear it.

Open Source Patron Computing

How I set up GNU/Linux computers for patrons in my library

Why open source?
Providing internet access to the public has come to be an important service that libraries provide, but it can be quite a challenge to do so in a secure, cost-effective way. Maintaining patron privacy on a shared, public computer is one of the problems that librarians face every day.

When I came to my current job, we had Windows computers with expensive, proprietary software to roll back any changes that patrons made. This software had many problems from my point of view. Not only was the cost a problem, but it actually allowed monitoring of what our patrons were doing online at any time. This is a huge privacy problem.

Additionally, the software was set up in such a way that it undid any updates except for Windows updates. This created major security risks as it forced our patrons to use old and vulnerable versions of Flash, Java, Chrome, Firefox, and more. My solution to all of these problems was to switch to an open source platform for our patron computing.

I have been an open source enthusiast for many years now in my personal life, but this was the first time that I had the opportunity to bring it into my professional life. It was exciting to be able to prove many of the arguments that I had been using to advocate for switching to open source software.

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Tor exit relays in libraries: a new LFP project

July 28, 2015 in news, projects

Greetings! It’s been an exceptionally busy few months over here at the Library Freedom Project. We’ve been conducting privacy trainings at libraries across the United States and some internationally, and in June we held our first Digital Rights in Libraries conference. We’re also starting an HTTPS campaign for libraries with friend o’ the Library Freedom Project Eric Hellman and the good folks working on Let’s Encrypt (more on that to come in about a week or so). LFP: can’t stop, won’t stop.

Today, we’re announcing the start of a new initiative, a collaboration between the Library Freedom Project and our friends at the Tor Project: Tor exit relays in libraries. Nima Fatemi, the Tor Project member who’s already helped Library Freedom Project in a number of ways, is our main partner on this project. This is an idea whose time has come; libraries are our most democratic public spaces, protecting our intellectual freedom, privacy, and unfettered access to information, and Tor Project creates software that allows all people to have these rights on the internet. What’s more, Tor Project is Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), which is the best defense against government and corporate surveillance. We’re excited to combine our efforts to help libraries protect internet freedom, strengthen the Tor network, and educate the public about how Tor can help protect their right to digital free expression.
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  • “DHS (Department of Homeland Security) fought to stop libraries from using privacy technology, but @LibraryFreedom beat them. Librarians are badass.”
    Edward Snowden
    Board Chairman, Freedom of the Press Foundation