I don’t think I’d like to see this become a trend:
The Naperville (Ill.) Public Library board approved a $40,646 contract May 18 with a local technology firm to install fingerprint scanners on its public internet computers. The scanners, to be installed this summer, will replace the current system of requiring patrons to enter their library-card and PIN numbers to prove their identity, the Chicago Tribune reported May 20.
There are a couple of things that concern me about this. First, our fingerprints should not start showing up in multiple databases. Yea, these folks say the special encoding can not be reverse engineered but I don’t see anything that says the the fingerprint itself is not retained. And, even if it is not retained initially what are the safeguards to assure it never is retained and just how will you know?
Secondly, the linked articles talks about a law enforcement request for login records. Surely this information along with the logs detailing online activity are deleted in real or near real time. If not, then patrons should be insisting on this. The most that should be retained is the information that an unidentified patron used a computer for x minutes on such and such a day. Anything more than that should be considered a breach of privacy.
Maybe lots of folks will respond with this approach:
West said the library is requiring a fingerprint to set up computer access, although patrons who object could ask a staff member to log them on to a computer.
“I’m sure we won’t turn anybody away who refuses to use the technology, but in all honesty, it will be more cumbersome,” West said.
And the increased manpower cost will lead Naperville to return to easily used cards. If it leads them to become increasingly restrictive then, I suspect, it will simply hasten their marginalization in an increasingly digital world where the bulk of the written material created will be available to us in our living room, the local park, coffeeshop or where ever else we choose.