Skip to content
Dec 8 / Erin Vader

Consumer Information

Written by Srikar Vemuri

Popular department store Nieman Marcus has recently appointed Sarah Hendrickson as their first chief information security officer. (Norton, 2014) This comes on the heels of an embarrassing data breach in January at which over 40 million customer credit cards were compromised. This is a very interesting response from the company and most likely aimed at easing customer concerns with online shopping at Nieman Marcus before the busiest shopping season of the year. It is however, a bold step and I expect other large corporations to follow suit. It will be interesting to see what the effect of making information security a serious priority will have on consumer shopping habits.

While large corporations such as Nieman Marcus often have large IT departments and budgets to maintain and secure their data, the appointment of a high level executive whose primary responsibility is to maintain the security of customer data on their website signifies a that large corporations are finally being forced to take this issue more seriously. Although research shows mixed results with the regards to consumer confidence in corporations after data breaches (Kapetansky, 2014), it is only logical to assume that in the long run if these breaches continue to happen consumers will lose confidence in the ability of large corporations to protect confidential information and may affect sales.

It will be interesting to see what high level executive tasked with protecting confidential consumer information can bring to table that a large corporation does not already have in place. It is safe to assume that a company with the resources of Niemen Marcus most likely has the ability to implement one of the best online security systems on the market in place so it is difficult to see what additional steps the next executive can take to protect confidential customer data.

Personally I believe that this move is mainly intended to restore customer confidence in the company and that at the current time very little can be done to stop these occasional breaches.  However this move signifies that companies such as Nieman Marcus realize the urgency of resolving this issue and are willing to invest in making confidential customer data secure. I feel that if other companies follow suit and pour their recourses into tackling this issue, innovation make occur that could potentially solve this issue long term. However, I feel the trend of online shopping and electronic financial transactions is here to stay regardless, and that while these breaches may dampen consumer enthusiasm, it will not stop this trend. I feel that society as whole is slowly learning to accept these security breaches of confidential data as part of everyday life and are beginning to consider them as minor inconveniences that are experienced by all.


Norton, S. (2014, September 24). Neiman Marcus Names First Chief Information Security Officer. Retrieved November 18, 2014, from

Kapetansky, G. (2014, September 25). Will data breaches scare away consumers? Retrieved November 18, 2014, from


Dec 4 / Erin Vader

A Brief Overview of Information Policy

Written by Tiffany Sonnier

A Definition

Information policy is becoming more relevant in today’s information society.  Information policy is the laws, policies, regulations, technologies and practices that impact the exchange of information, both public and private.  Furthermore, information policy supports the decisions related to the use, creation, preservation, storage and security of information.  Information policy has its tendrils in many disciplines, including information science, law and public policy.

A History

The shift to an information society paved the way for the study of information policy.  Over the last half of the twentieth century, knowledge has become visible and easily accessed over the Internet.  Anyone can create and disseminate information.  The government plays a role in the creation and dissemination of information.  In fact, the way that the government controls information has led to an information policy.  In An Introduction to Information Policy(2007), Sandra Braman writes that one of the most ancient forms of governance includes information policy “in the extent to which governments deliberately, explicitly, and consistently control information creation, processing, flows, and use to exercise power” (p. 1).  Social trends, economic developments, and legal developments influence information policy as well.  It is a study that is continuously changing.  And it needs to be in order to keep up with the changing technology and information culture.

A Description

The realms of information policy encompass the sharing, protection, and privacy of knowledge, data, and information.  While arguments abound regarding the classification of knowledge, data and information, the three terms are listed here for simplicity’s sake.  Information policy is influenced by the concerns and constraints of people and the technology used for information.  It is also influenced by the sources of power and primary stakeholders.  InToward a Model of Information Policy Analysis (2003), Maxwell indicates that the four realms of information policy compete to take precedence.  These realms include the sovereign, transformation, production, and global.  The sovereign realm focuses on the expectations between government and its citizens; the transformation realm focuses on the actions of individuals; the production realm focuses on the relationship between the producers of information and their control over information ownership; and globalization involves the relationship between states and corporations.

A Review

Information policy is a complex system of ideas.  It consists of many separate issues that remain a part of the same conversation.  These issues range from access to networks and service providers, privacy rights, and intellectual property.

Public libraries consistently deal with information policy issues.  Recently, they have begun using RFID (radio frequency identification) tags to track books and other library materials.  Libraries use RFID tags to increase productivity (for inventory and handling) and for security issues.  However, as security strengthens, privacy weakens.  In the context of technological innovation, it is important to remember how it will affect the privacy of both individuals and organizations on wider a scale.  In Technology, security, and individual privacy: New tools, new threats, and new public perceptions (2005), Lee Strickland states, “there has been and continues to be a recurring conflict between the need for security by the state and the interest in personal privacy by the people” (p. 226).  It is possible for detailed information of library users’ activities to be collected by other agencies and/or organizations.

When libraries implement this technology, are the users made aware of the implications to their personal privacy?  An information policy should explain how this technology affects users and whether their personal information is shared, how long it is stored, etc.  Strickland emphasizes the need for creating such a policy and states that a good policy focuses on “simplicity and effective communication to the concerned parties – the customer, the collecting entity, and the business partners” (p. 232).  He further argues that maintaining good privacy policy is both good policy and good business.  Librarians and information professionals have an obligation to ensure that such policy exists and remains intact.     

A Future

As public libraries evolve to keep pace with the advances in technology, it is essential that the information policies remain up to date to meet the needs of its users.  21st Century librarians face many challenges in this area.  Firstly, it is important for library professionals to ask how information will be stored, organized, and disseminated.  Additionally, they will need to address issues of privacy when handling individual information of their users.  Library professionals will likely need to collaborate with local, state, and even federal governments, as well as users and stakeholders in order to create an effective information policy for the storage.

Librarians will also continue to face questions of intellectual property, who creates information, and who has the right to access or distribute information.  Copyright is a confusing aspect of information policy.  Add to it the complexity of information created online in the form of blogs or other social media posts, and the information professional is left with a lot of uncertainty.  An information policy should, at the very least, attempt to address such questions.

Finally, it will be important to understand the role of government in information policy.  How government will intervene with respect to access to information and the dissemination of information are essential questions to ask.  For instance, some information may lack authenticity and thus, its publication may cause further problems than if left unpublished.  It will also raise questions into who is responsible for keeping users’ individual information private – the organization or the government.

While all of the above are necessary questions to address in the near future, it is clear to see just how complex information policy is for all involved.  Collaboration between the many entities is key in creating an effective information policy.


Braman, S. (2007). Change of State: Information, Policy, and Power. First Monday, 12 (4), np. Retrieved from

Maxwell, T. A. (2003). Toward a model of information policy analysis: Speech as an illustrative example. First Monday, 8 (6), np.

Strickland, L. S., & Hunt, L. E. (2005). Technology, security, and individual privacy: New tools, new threats, and new public perceptions. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 56(3), 221-234. Retrieved from


Dec 3 / Amy Greschaw

Privacy Under the Wayne State University Confidential Information Policy

 By Grace Caruso

The Wayne State University Confidential Information Policy identifies the privacy rights of students. It is a “framework for dealing with the challenge of maintaining private and confidential data. “ The University defines confidential data as “data held by the University that could harm the person to whom it refers/belongs if seen or acquired by a person not authorized by university policy, procedure or applicable external regulations, and data that are protected by federal or state legislation dealing with data privacy. (Confidential Information Policy, 2014) This includes social security numbers, credit card numbers, bank account information, as well as student records other than university-designated directory information. Also protected are health information and access ID/ password combinations that permit access to restricted university electronic resources. Personal information that is collected for research purposes under an approved research protocol is protected, as is information that is collected with a promise or obligation to keep it private, or data which is proprietary or classified.  The list specifically indicates that data that are legally excluded from release under the Freedom of Information Act are included. A user is defined as any Wayne State University officer, employee, or student who has access to confidential data, and any non-employee given such access on a contractual or business basis. Access to confidential data is limited to people whose job duties, as defined by University policies and procedures, require such access.

The policy addresses issues such as the safe storage of paper and electronic records, password protected records on electronic devices, the transmission of documents, and the permanent deletion and destruction of electronic media and files.  The policy also addresses the use of the best available security practices and the immediate reporting of incidents in which confidential documents have fallen into unauthorized hands or a security breach had occurred.

The policy has a succinct description of disciplinary actions that states that violations can be addressed by the university and that the student may still seek civil or criminal remedies. It notes the procedural issue,  “Administrative remedies taken under this policy will not be subject to challenge on the grounds that civil or criminal charges involving the same incident have been invoked, dismissed, or are pending.”

This policy is meant to protect student privacy, but the protection of student privacy rights is not complete unless there are clear guidelines related to how students proceed when they believe that their rights have been violated. Where does the student go; which office; which form needs to be completed; which person must be contacted; and what are the “civil or criminal charges” the policy references? This policy, like many similar policies defines rights, but could press on to the next step and provide the clear procedural information the student  needs and provide a method for the student to use in an very unexpected and distressing situation.



Wayne State University Confidential Information Policy. Retrieved from

Wayne State University (2013a). Privacy of Academic Records: Student Rights Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Retrieved from

United States Department of Education (2011). FERPA General Guidelines for Students. Retrieved from

Wayne State University (2013b). Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act: Guidelines for Wayne State University Faculty, Students, and Staff (FERPA). Retrieved from

Dec 3 / Erin Vader

Social Media Research Raises Privacy and Ethical Concerns

Written by Jessica Judd

Cyber footprints left behind using social media and search engines on the Internet raise concerns with privacy and ethical issues.  Every search conducted on the Internet and every post made on Facebook can be monitored by anyone (Jayson, 2014). Cyber footprints are being left, which aids in social media research.  Although, personal information should be kept private, users should be weary as their information may be used for research purposes.  Between every search on Google or every post on Facebook, social media is in the spotlight as a cause for privacy concerns.

Ways in which social media has raised privacy and ethics issues include the big company of Microsoft, which has been able to identify women at risk of postpartum depression.  How they have done this, you may ask.  Through online communication, researchers have gathered data, meaning those cyber footprints that have been left behind from searching on the Internet, have been gathered and analyzed by researchers for their studies.  Facebook is another example of what could be considered a privacy concern.  Facebook has been able to study how parents and their children interact.

These issues have been in the spotlight recently.  Social and personality psychologist “…gathered to concentrate on what’s ahead amid concerns that some users of these sites may not like that their behavior is under the microscope” (Jayson, 2014).  Social psychologist Ilka Gleibs said, “Be aware it is a space that is watched.”  Gleibs study exists in the journal Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, where she talks about social networking sites for research field studies.  The study makes note that “Facebook is transformed from a public space to a behavioral laboratory” (Jayson, 2014). This statement comes from a project of 1,700 college-based Facebook users.  Facebook data scientist Adam Kramer says that privacy is a big issue for the research world.  Researchers have access to users’ posts and in Facebook’s privacy policy, they point out that what is yours on Facebook, is kept private.  This is a big privacy concern as Facebook is saying one thing and researchers are able to do another; however, users can be more at ease according to a statement by attorney and privacy expert, Parry Aftab.  Aftab says, “The sites will never provide personally identifiable information unless they have the consent of the users.  And there is legal recourse if they’re using it in any other way.”  Researchers on the other hand, must be cautious when accessing users’ data, as not all data is accurate and it is easy to misinterpret data.

These privacy concerns and ethics issues stem from researchers being able to follow in users footsteps online and collect data based on how they are interacting.  These issues are still being closely looked at, but Internet users should be aware that it is possible for information to be leaked in order for researchers to gather data and perform a research study.


Jayson, S. (March 12, 2014). Social media research raises privacy and ethics

issues. USA Today. Retrieved from

Dec 3 / Erin Vader

Connecting into BYOD Security

Written by Kristin Ziska

Preparing for work in the morning, many people don’t think twice about checking their email or work calendar on their smartphones before heading off to the office.  For many, preparation for the next day includes reviewing documents on their personal tablet as they watch TV on their couch or running through a meeting’s important ideas as they sit in a vendor’s waiting room.  Using a personally owned device to access business information poses some serious risks and some fantastic benefits that companies need to think about and weigh as they decide how to deal with the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement.

BYOD has been defined as “use of employee-owned mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets to access business enterprise content or networks” (Long, n.d.).  According to Dimensional Research (2013), over ninety percent of individuals surveyed have a mobile device connected to the company network.  Individuals choose to use personal mobile devices for multiple reasons:  brand preference, operating system preference, lack of corporate supply, and convenience.  No matter their reasoning, individuals utilizing personal technology for entity business have solidified itself into modern corporate culture and must be addressed by information security policy.

The number of personal devices being connected to company networks and used to access company information is steadily increasing.  This means that companies, as they are reviewing their information security policies, will need to take BYOD users into account.  Companies will need to realize that they may become a part of the 79% of the companies Dimensional Research (2013) surveyed that had mobile incidents.  These policies are imperative as “employers may be concerned with protecting their reputation or brand integrity. They may also need to protect proprietary information, trade secrets, or other confidential information”  (Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, 2014).

Challenges that are unique to BYOD devices are as varied as the devices being connected.  Issues include reduced security due to jailbreaking, bypassed restrictions, adware/spyware, increased appearance of malware, use of cloud-based storage, lack of attention to user agreements, failure to complete security updates, and loss or theft of the device.  Even the user itself can be considered an issue as a mobile device allows them to take information and share it willingly with competitors and outsiders.  These issues leave human resource, financial, privileged, proprietary, and client/marking information open to compromise  (Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, 2014) (Phneah, 2014) (Shacklett, 2012) (Westervelt, 2013).

Policymakers asking some simple questions will enable them to avoid these issues.  What data do they want allowed on private devices?  What type of encryption do they want to enforce?  How do they want the information stored on private devices?  How should the information be transferred?  Once these questions are answered, the policymaking will have direction and will answer the main issues with BYOD situations  (Long, n.d.).

BYOD agreements, which can be implemented as a separate policy or as a part of an employment agreement, should include several key ideas.  One main idea is to give the user the responsibility to keep software updated and device in good repair to minimize security risks and place the financial strain of this upon the individual user.  The entity should have the ability to approve or disapprove apps, and the user would be responsible for the removal of disapproved apps upon request by the entity.  Entities should have the ability to disallow access to the network for jailbroken devices and devices with disapproved apps.  Most of all, the policy agreement should outline specific consequences for breaking the agreement  (Phifer, 2013).

BYOD situations are a fantastic opportunity for individuals to utilize technology that they are comfortable with to increase production and continue to stay on top of the ever-changing technological climate.  Companies can easily embrace the benefits of this situation by taking the necessary steps and asking the tough questions to create policies that are resilient to keep up with advances and non-imposing enough to be followed by employees without undue duress.  As mobile technology advances, it will be up to the company policymakers to ensure that data is protected and secured, which begins with individual information security awareness.


Dimensional Research. (2013, June). The Impact of Mobile Devices on Information Security: A Survey of IT Professionals. Retrieved from

Long, W. (n.d.). BYOD: data protection and information security issues. Retrieved from

Phifer, L. (2013, January). BYOD security strategies: Balancing BYOD risks and rewards. Retrieved from

Phneah, E. (2014, February 4). Five security risks of moving data in BYOD era | ZDNet. Retrieved from

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. (2014, October). Bring Your Own Device . . . at Your Own Risk | Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. Retrieved November 15, 2014, from

Shacklett, M. (2012, August 20). 10 BYOD concerns that go beyond security issues – TechRepublic. Retrieved from

Westervelt, R. (2013, July 26). Top 10 BYOD Risks Facing The Enterprise – Page: 2 | CRN. Retrieved from

Dec 3 / Erin Vader

Collection Development Policy

Written by Priscilla Dahl Melesco

Information Policies direct library activities and affect library patrons with regular frequency. In the library, some of the policies that guide a patron’s experience include privacy policies, copyright policy, circulation policy and collection development policies. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Information and Library Science defines Information Policy as:

“The set of rules, formal and informal, that directly restrict, encourage, or otherwise shape flows of information.”[1]

Collection development has traditionally been the responsibility of librarians, who are familiar with the mission statement and goals of a library, the scope of collections and are knowledgeable about potential new sources of information. The Library of Congress Collections Policies Statements:

“…govern the Library’s collections development and acquisitions efforts. They provide framework to support the Libraries responsibilities to serve the Congress as well as the United States Government as a whole, the scholarly community, and the general public. The policies provide a plan for developing the collections and maintaining their existing strengths. They set forth the scope, level of collecting intensity and goals sought by the Library to fulfill its service mission.”[2]

How do collection development policies assist a library in achieving its mission and goals? Mission statements for public libraries address their roles as providers of access to information, literacy and cultural traditions. The library is a place of inspiration and education. The framework and guidance found within a collection development policy defines the process of selecting materials that reflect the overall purpose and objectives of the library.

The Conspectus model of collection development provides four reasons a library should have a written collection development policy. These are: Selection, Planning, Public Relations and the Wider Context.[3]  By following a written policy, personal bias is reduced; gaps identified, and the policy provides clarity and consistency. In Planning a Collection Development Policy, departments across the library are directed follow a similar course; and make selection choices within the context of library priorities, mission and budget. A collection development policy is a written document to be read, shared and interpreted by patrons, library staff and the community. It provides an understanding of the intention and direction of material selection. As libraries work in consortiums, a written policy is necessary for guidance and direction.

There are common threads which are woven through information policy and collection development policies. Both are created to provide formal, consistent and informed decision-making management and administration tools. The generation of collection development policy parameters will certainly shape and define the information resource choices and strengthen the collection value by providing consistency, direction and goals. Librarians are increasingly sharing this responsibility with their library patrons, who have a growing voice in collection development. The choices patrons make when selecting and reading e-books, through data-driven, library usage statistics and by formal request to the library staff are three ways patrons actively participate in collection development.

A transformation is occurring in libraries with the introduction of electronic resources. The advancement of e-book collections has introduced a new way for patrons to participate in resource selection, known as patron-driven acquisition, library e-book collections grow as patrons make their own development choices by downloading and reading online. Titles are selected by individual patrons, not only by library staff. These choices also provide specific and clear data on resource selection and usage. This resource data can be combined with circulation reports generated by integrated library systems to provide quantitative statistics to assist in a collection development policy.

Libraries revel in their ability to provide their community with culture, art, education and technology. To thrive, it is necessary to know what library patrons are looking for within the library, and to provide this to the community.  Libraries are encouraged to review and revise their collection development policies, and through this reflection understand how to best serve their patrons.

[1] What is Information Policy?, (2/3/99)retrieved from

[2] Collection Development and Policies, (11/2008), retrieved from

[3] Guidelines for a Collection Development Policy Using the Conspectus Model , (2001), retrieved from

Dec 3 / Erin Vader

Net Neutrality: Regulating Internet Service Providers (ISPs)

Written by Claire Cheng

The net neutrality debate is both complicated and controversial and has intensified since President Obama made a direct statement to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) urging the independent agency to protect net neutrality, keep the Internet “open and free” and regulate the Internet as a utility to protect consumers.  In January 2014, a federal appeals court struck down the FCC’s previous rules for net neutrality, prompting the commission to search for new regulatory rules.

Essentially, there are two arguments: there are net neutrality supporters who say that Internet service providers should be regulated as utilities and that net neutrality principles have encouraged innovation and created millions of jobs; on the other hand, there are those who are against regulation and claim that net neutrality will harm consumers and the economy and that IPS will create an incentive to innovate and create jobs, and will be subject to heavy-handed government bureaucracy and control.

Currently, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), such as Verizon and Comcast, and cable companies can give preferential treatment to sites by giving certain companies a fast lane over their network, while blocking or intentionally slowing down traffic for others. Some consumer advocacy groups call for the regulation of Internet service providers to offer paid prioritization to those who can afford the high costs for doing business on the Internet, rather than making all traffic be treated equally.  This means that regardless of your Internet connection at home, your ISP can decide, for example, it wants to give priority bandwidth to Netflix, rather than YouTube.

In a major dispute between an Internet service provider and a content provider, Comcast charged Netflix extra for premium access to its video-streaming services, ensuring that a higher fee would guarantee Netflix’s programs would play properly on all networks.  Netflix subscribers saw evidence of videos loading faster for Comcast subscribers.  It may seem at first the consumer is benefiting from increased web speed to Netflix, but what about consumers who don’t use Netflix?

Net neutrality advocates say if you prefer to deal with another company, like a streaming video startup, you will have to deal with slower speeds. Unfortunately, an unregulated online environment means that giant ISPs monopolize the internet and and reduce the inherent equality of the Internet  by charging a toll to companies to have access to an “Internet fast lane.”  These giant ISPs would be able to afford the large toll that new startups could not, thus undermining the competition that has driven the American technology sector for a long time.

Claire Cheng expects to graduate with an MLIS degree from Wayne State University in May 2015. She is interested primarily in digital libraries and records management. Currently, she works as the Circulation Lead and Assistant Project Manager at the U.S. EPA Region 9 Superfund Records Center in San Francisco, CA.

Dorfman, J. (2014, November 13). Net neutrality is a bad idea supported by poor analogies. Retrieved November 13, 2014, from

Forbes, S. (2014, June 9). Net neutrality: A web of deceit. Retrieved November 10, 2014, from

SFGate. (2014, May 14). Discarding net neutrality is a bad idea. Retrieved November 13, 2014, from

Wyatt, E. (2014, November 10). Obama asks F.C.C. to adopt tough net neutrality rules. Retrieved November 13, 2014, from

Dec 3 / Erin Vader

Social Media Anonymity – Are You Really Anonymous?

Written by Krystal Tosch

Social media is a huge trend in society as of late. Users can use social media to promote businesses, keep in touch with family and friends or just peruse at their leisure. However, one of the most popular trends recently has been anonymous social media applications, such as: Whisper, Snapchat, Secret and Yik Yak, which allows users to post messages and / or pictures anonymously (Dwoskin, 2014). These applications are experiencing a growth in popularity because of their unfiltered take on traditional social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter (Ewell, 2014). There are many skeptics at how anonymous these new twists on social media really are, though – does the company know who its users are? Do the messages or pictures disappear after being sent? Where does the information go after it is sent if it’s anonymous? (Dwoskin, 2014). In regards to information policy, these questions need to be better addressed because of how they may perceive anonymity.

When Whisper was accused of tracking the location of its users, the company spokesperson stated that it was “the safest place on the Internet” (Dwoskin, 2014); however, people still have doubts about the company. Dwoskin (2014) also states that as long as companies connect users through the Internet, they are able to find device IDs and IP addresses to serve as unique identifies and narrow down whom its users are.

The anonymous Twitter-like posting application, Yik Yak, is highly present on college campuses and has been used for cyberbullying and threats of violence (McDonnell, 2014). However, Yik Yak’s lead community developer, Cam Mullen, has stated that if a questionable post gets five votes down, they remove it from the feed. Additionally, Mullen stated that they use filters to identify racism, cyberbullying, homophobia and people’s names and within one minute of a posting of that nature, it will be taken down (McDonnell, 2014). Mullen’s statement shows the commitment that Yik Yak has to ensuring that a campus environment is safe from harm and that commitment will hopefully stay within the duration of Yik Yak’s existence.

Third party applications can also connect these anonymous services, by hacking through an application programming interface (API) (Wagner, 2014). Recently, it seemed as though Snapchat was hacked by API’s, where Snapchat users were using third-party applications that involved them using their Snapchat username and password, making them more vulnerable (Wagner, 2014). Unfortunately, this was not Snapchat’s first time dealing with this breach. With these recent events, users should be aware of the lack of anonymity as their photos can be easily leaked. Snapchat has begun to enforce the policy of notifying its users when they are using a third-party app to help alleviate this issue (Ribeiro, 2014). Hopefully more applications will use this approach in order to best inform their users of the risks of downloading third-party applications and thinking that all content is kept anonymous.

Overall, anonymity has to be better addressed. Users need to be aware that their anonymous postings are not anonymous. The anonymity of apps, such as Yik Yak, can lead to bullying and be detrimental to others. In regards to third party applications, I can only hope that these developers be stopped from putting out these applications, or that users become more aware of how dangerous third party applications can be to their information security.


Dwoskin, E. (2014, October 28). Whisper and the Meaning of Anonymity. The Wall Street Journal.

Retrieved from


McDonnell, M. (2014, October 26). Yik Yak takes action against bullying. Vidette Online. Retrieved



Ribeiro, J. (2014, November 12). Snapchat to ask users to stop using unauthorized apps. Computer

World. Retrieved from


Wagner, K. (2014, October 13). Snapchat Blames Third-Party Apps for Hack, Raising Questions

About Its API. Re/code. Retrieved from



Dec 3 / Erin Vader

When Money Controls Politics

Written by Amy Greschaw

American politics are influenced by a churning sea of hotly-contested issues: immigration, climate change, energy, economic policy, education, and healthcare to name but a handful of the hundreds of issues. While each issue is doubtlessly more complicated than a yes or no voting ballot, during an election their complexity will be reduced to just that: one party’s view or the other; the Democrats or the Republicans. Many Americans will vote instinctively along party lines they’ve chosen sometime in the past, but every year millions of undecided voters will rely on advertising to decide which candidate represents their best interests, and how they will cast their ballot on the issues. Though information about an election’s contentious issues certainly abounds, how easily is the message manipulated when the interest of one or a handful of individuals controls a large chunk of the media information?


Charles Koch is an American billionaire and the CEO of Koch Industries, a corporation that earns its money primarily through petrochemicals, manufacturing, and oil refining (Profile, n.d.). Worth more than $40 billion, he and his brother David have invested a significant chunk of their wealth to winning the 2014 Senate election for the Republicans, prompting Sen. Harry Reid to accuse Koch of trying to buy the country (Ibid). Koch denied the accusation, and chastised Sen. Reid for making it, calling the act beneath him (Ibid). However, when you start adding up the issues Mr. Koch and his billions have endeavored to dominate, the accusation seems far from ridiculous.


Mr. Koch’s sphere of influence is wide and varied. Documents uncovered by Republic Report have revealed Charles Koch to be the founder of the Institute for Energy Research (IER), a non-profit organization that conducts research and performs analysis on public policies affecting the oil, gas, coal, and electricity markets (Fang, 2014). The IER is critical of public policy seeking to curb dependence on fossil fuels and to provide incentives for research into and implementation of renewable energy sources, and spends millions of dollars protecting the interests of the very industries in which Mr. Koch makes his living. While the IER makes ads attacking environmentalists and the EPA, other nonprofit groups under the Koch brothers’ control have produced TV ads attacking politicians for supporting a variety of public policies, chief among them Obamacare (Beckel, 2014). The Center for Public Integrity estimates that the Koch brothers’ dollars are responsible for 1 in 10 political ads aired so far in the 2014 Senate election (Ibid). During a summit sponsored by Koch, the executive vice president of Koch Industries, Richard Fink, drew a direct line between increasing the country’s minimum wage and the “rise of fascism, totalitarianism, and terrorist suicide bombers”, even going so far as to raise the specter of the Third Reich (Fischer, 2014).  There hardly seems an issue in the 2014 election that Charles Koch and his brother David have not used their wealth to influence.


Of course, like any citizens of this country, the brothers Koch have a right to speak their mind on each and every one of these issues. While their political leanings skew to the right, they are only one example of how wealth and power influence American elections; they are certainly not the only two people guilty of trying to effectively buy an election. They do, however, illustrate a very important principle: while each individual is allowed the unlimited freedom to speak their mind, does possession of disproportionate wealth entitle someone to disproportionate control over information?  With his billions, Mr. Koch buys not just a platform for himself. With dozens of non-profit groups and Political Action Committees (PACs), he can afford the appearance of overwhelming consensus on the issues he finds important. And with names such as Americans for Prosperity and Concerned Veterans for America, do the people who encounter the television ads, scientific studies, and policy reports these groups churn out really know who is standing behind them?

The ideas that the business of lobbying should be reformed, and that the interests behind PACs and non-profit groups seeking to influence policy should be more transparent, are not new. However, the very same interests that pump dollars into these elections prevent any reform from happening. An important component of evaluating information is knowing where that information is coming from, and what interests it might serve. Fighting for lobbying reform is serving the interests of the American public and their right to accurate information.

Amy Greschaw will graduate in December 2014 with her MLIS and a Graduate Certificate in Information Management, specializing in Web Design. Amy acts as the Coordinator of Volunteers at Farmington Community Library in Farmington Hills, MI. She’s also responsible for managing the ESL and International Language collections, and she has a hand in programming, including Summer Reading and a monthly discussion group for writers. Amy is a writer herself, and has had a handful of short stories and essays published. Her list of hobbies is always growing, but includes organic gardening, knitting, and riding her bike.

Works Cited

Beckel, M. (2014, September 4). The Kochs’ Political Ad Machine. Retrieved September 7, 2014, from

Fang, L. (2014, August 30). Charles Koch Personally Founded Group Protecting Oil Industry Hand-Outs, Documents Reveal. Retrieved September 7, 2014, from

Fischer, B. (2014, September 5). Koch Operative: Raise the Wage, Totalitarianism and Terrorism Follow? Retrieved September 5, 2014, from

Profile: Charles Koch. (n.d.). Retrieved September 7, 2014, from

Dec 2 / Amy Greschaw

Presidents, Papers and the Public: The Policy and Principles of the Presidential Records Act

By Cindy Wyckoff

The ownership and privacy of the records and documents, both official and personal, of the presidents of the United States have been debated for at least a century and a half.  This argument dates back to 1841, in Folsomv. Marsh, which was sparked by the question of copyright of the writings of former President George Washington.  This United States Circuit Court in Massachusetts’ lawsuit provided presidents with the legal right to declare that any documents drafted while in office were considered private (Folsom v. Marsh, 1841).

Later, former Presidents Grover Cleveland and Howard Taft were outspoken with their insistence that the papers of the president were not public.  President Cleveland believed that, “the papers and documents withheld and addressed to [him] or intended for [his] use and action [were] purely unofficial and private, not infrequently confidential, and having reference to the performance of a duty [were] exclusively [his]” (Cook, 1975, p. 310).  President Cleveland further stated that presidential documents were “deposited there for [his] convenience, remaining still completely under [his] control […]” (Cook, 1975, p. 310).  Former President William Taft “compared a President’s files to the correspondence of a British ambassador, which remains with the individual after his retirement instead of being transferred to the Foreign Office” (Cook, 1975, p. 310).

The basis of the controversy over the privacy of the documents of a president lies within the “confidentiality, separation of powers, and partisanship” of such records (Smith, N.K. & Stern, G.M., 2006, p 81).  In order to carry out the responsibilities of the office, such as “receiv[ing] frank advice on a variety of sensitive issues, including appointments and foreign policy,” presidents have felt it necessary to keep these documents classified (Smith, N.K. & Stern, G.M., 2006, p 81).  In addition, presidents felt these records were personal property.  Federal judges and Congressmen also kept their papers private for the preservation of “the constitutional separation of powers” (Smith, N.K. & Stern, G.M., 2006, p 81).

The question of whether the presidents’ papers are owned and accessible by the public or are private records continued into the 20th century.  “By the late 1930s, the Library of Congress held the papers of 22 Presidents” (Cox, 2002, p. 47).  Then, in 1941, the opening of the first Presidential Library, that of Franklin D. Roosevelt, eventually led to the enactment of the Presidential Libraries Act of 1955 (Cox, 2002).

Prior to the enactment of the Presidential Libraries Act, as a president completed his term in office, “it had been customary for Presidents to take the records with them as their personal property” frequently transferring the documents “from one generation to the next with little concern for their value to the history of the nation” (Geselbracht, R. & Walch, T., 2005).  The Presidential Libraries Act, which became law on August 12, 1955, was ratified with pressure from the National Archives and Records Administration and with the anticipation it would end the debate of whether presidential documents were private or publicly owned (Geselbracht, R. & Walch, T., 2005).

The Presidential Libraries Act was an important step toward the principles of the Presidential Records Act with its allowance of “the orderly transfer of presidential papers and memorabilia to the federal government” (Geselbracht, R. & Walch, T., 2005).  The Presidential Libraries Act mandated the Administrator of General Services to accept, maintain and make available to the public any presidential papers received for archiving in a depository, which was gifted to the United States government (U.S. National Archives, n.d.b).  The Presidential Libraries Act had a shortcoming, however, which Raymond Geselbracht and Timothy Walch (2005) discuss in the article, “The Presidential Libraries Act after 50 Years”:

“[T]he Presidential Libraries Act did not require that a President donate his official papers to the National Archives, and therefore did nothing to prevent a former President from asserting personal property rights in presidential materials, such as by destroying or not donating some or all of the materials.”

The deficiency of the Presidential Libraries Act was realized on August 8, 1974 when former President Richard Nixon “announced his intention to resign from office”[1] (Cook, 1975, p. 313).  The same day, the former president instructed the General Services Administration to seal “all of the pre-presidential papers deeded in 1968-69, not until the end of his administration as the original deed of gift states, but until 1985” (Cook, 1975, p. 313).  The debate of whether presidential documents, or in this case audio recordings, were private or public and whether the public should have access to them was, once again, renewed.

In response to the instruction of the General Services Administration to seal these papers, which became commonly known as the Nixon-Sampson Agreement, the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act of 1974 was signed into law by President Gerald R. Ford, who was sworn into office upon Nixon’s resignation (Geselbracht, R. & Walch, T., 2005).  This Act voided the agreement and allowed for the government to gain custody of and prevented the destruction of Nixon’s presidential records, including those involving the Watergate scandal (Smith & Stern, 2006, p. 88; Geselbracht, R. & Walch, T., 2005).

While the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act addressed the issues raised with the Nixon presidential records, legislation was needed to provide a more thorough set of standards for official presidential documents and determined the actual ownership of such documents.  Consequently, in 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed the Presidential Records Act (“PRA”), which “permanently changed the tradition of handling presidential papers, while at the same time incorporating checks and balances for the records of the highest official in the government” (Geselbracht, R. & Walch, T., 2005; Smith & Stern, p. 96).  The PRA also applied to vice presidential materials (Smith & Stern, p. 97).

The PRA mandates that all documents drafted or received by a president or the president’s staff is government property, not the personal property of the president (U.S. National Archives, n.d.a; McKay, 1982, pp. 38-39).  “The PRA also defines presidential “personal records” as documentary materials “of a purely private or nonpublic character which do not relate or have an effect upon the carrying out of the constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties of the President” (Smith, N.K. & Stern, G.M., 2006, p. 96).

As with any law, the PRA is fluid and amendable by Congress or the president.  With several Executive Orders issued by recent Presidents Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Barrack Obama, public access to and timing of release of presidential records continues to be a controversial issue today.  Consequently, this flow of information — or lack thereof — between the office of the president and the public continues to be hindered, if not at least delayed.



Cook, J.F. (1975, July). “Private papers” of public officials. The American Archivist, 38(3), 299-324. Retrieved from

Cox, R.J. (2002). America’s pyramids: Presidents and their libraries. Government Information Quarterly, 19, 45-75. Retrieved from

Folsom v. Marsh, 9 F. Cas. 342, 344-345 (Cir. Ct. Mass. 1841)

Geselbracht, R., & Walch, T. (2005). The Presidential Libraries Act after 50 years. Prologue, 37. Retrieved from

McKay, P.R. (1982, January). Presidential papers: A property issue. The Library Quarterly, 52(1), 21-40. Retrieved from

Smith, N.K. & Stern, G.M. (2006). A historical review of access to records in presidential libraries. The Public Historian, 28(3), 79-116. Retrieved from

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, The. (n.d.). About the Public Papers of the Presidents. Retrieved from

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, The. (n.d.). Executive Order 12667–Presidential Records. Retrieved from

Watergate scandal. (2012). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from

[1] On August 9, 1974, former President Richard Nixon resigned as president following the threat of impeachment after the discovery of his concealed involvement in a burglary and destruction of evidence of a prior break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate office/hotel complex.  The political scandal quickly became commonly known as the “Watergate scandal” (Watergate scandal, 2012).