Promising Practices for Public Access Computers

I’ve been wrestling for a while now with how best to tackle the manifold privacy and security concerns inherent in shared computer environments. It’s a complex issue pertinent not only to the sacred tenets of Intellectual Freedom and the legislated requirements for patron confidentiality (NDCC 40-38-12), but also for network security and the provision of a reliable and safe computing environment. To make it more challenging, so many libraries are constrained in terms of the resources, time, and technological proficiency they have at their disposal to address these challenges. There are many facets to this, and I intend to tackle them one by one–so begins an epic series of posts…

Before delving into today’s topic, it’s probably prudent to remind you that if you have publicly accessible computers, you should have an Internet Access Policy (word document template). In fact, if you’re filtering to comply with CIPA, you’re obligated to have one.

Okay, if you’re still with me that means your library has an Internet Access Policy and you’re interested in securing your lab and protecting your patrons’ privacy without spending another dime. Bully for you! Today’s lesson: configuring the privacy settings on your public computers’ internet browsers. Below you’ll find instructions for Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer; you may not have all of these installed on your lab computers, but I recommend making  the following adjustments to whichever ones you do.


1. Mozilla Firefox

It’s easy to configure Firefox to respect user privacy. First, you’ll need to open up the menu (orange logo-sporting area in the upper left corner of any open browser window). Select Options to pop open a new window with the settings options. Now click on Privacy so that you can make the necessary adjustments. Make sure the “Tell websites I do not want to be tracked” checkbox is ticked. Now select “Never remember history” from the “Firefox will:” dropdown menu under History, like so:


Finally, click the OK button to instantiate your changes!

Google_Chrome_icon_(2011).svg2. Google Chrome

To change Chrome’s default behavior, you will have to make one minor edit to it’s shortcut. To do this, right click Chrome’s shortcut on your desktop, Start menu, or taskbar. Then click Properties to summon forth the Google Chrome Properties window. In the Shortcut tab, simply append ” -incognito” to the very end of the text in the “Target:” field (note: don’t key in the quotation marks!) Click OK and you will have successfully modified your shortcut! It is important to note that if you have more than one shortcut, you will need to modify all of them.



3. Internet Explorer

The process for tweaking Internet Explorer is very much like that for Chrome. Right click the IE shortcut on your desktop, Start Menu, or taskbar. Then click on Properties. Append ” -private” to the very end of the text in the “Target:” field (note: don’t key in the quotation marks!) Finally, click OK to finish it up. If you have more than one shortcut to IE, you will have to alter each of them in this fashion.


A final note: if you’re not currently using a program like Fortres Grand’s Clean Slate, Faronics’ Deep Freeze, or Complete Lock’s Install Guard, patrons will still be able to adjust these settings and undermine the protections you’ve put in place for them. More on locking changes like this down in a later post!


6 responses to “Promising Practices for Public Access Computers

  1. Pingback: Promising Practices for Public Access Computers, Part 2 | Field Notes

  2. Pingback: Spring Cleaning Computers (of Malware) | Field Notes

  3. Pingback: Promising Practices for Public Access Computers, Part 3 | Field Notes

  4. Pingback: Increasing Security on Public Access Computers with EMET | Field Notes

  5. Pingback: Privacy Primer for Public Access Computers | Field Notes

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