Well today was just another day here in A-Town…. I went to get my haircut, went to Dominick’s Grocery store, went to COD to pay my tuition, and mowed the lawn… not a whole lot got done today….. But I did manage to read this article in the Chicago Tribune Today…
Library card? Check. Fingerprint? Really?
Citing security, Naperville libraries will make patrons prove their identities
before using computers. Privacy advocates fear misuse of the data.
By James Kimberly
Tribune staff reporter
Published May 20, 2005
Before long, patrons wanting to use Naperville Public Library System computers
without a hassle will have to prove their identity with a fingerprint.
The three-library system this week signed a $40,646 contract with a local
company, U.S. Biometrics Corp., to install fingerprint scanners on 130 computers
with Internet access or a time limit on usage.
The decision, according to the American Library Association, makes Naperville
only the second library system in the country to install fingerprint scanners.
Library officials say the added security is necessary to ensure people who are
using the computers are who they say they are.
Officials promise to protect the confidentiality of the fingerprint records.
But with Congress contemplating an expansion of the USA Patriot Act, which gives
federal authorities access to confidential library records, and cameras watching
the streets some Chicagoans drive or the sidewalks they stroll, privacy
advocates are concerned about yet another erosion of personal liberty.
We take people’s fingerprints because we think they might be guilty of
something, not because they want to use the library, said Ed Yohnka, spokesman
for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.
Yohnka said Naperville may mean well, but that does not mean the technology
won’t be used for something else at a later date.
You’re creating just another database of information about people, Yohnka
said. I’m sure they started out with the best of intentions of not sharing this
information, but the reality is sometimes intentions go awry.
Currently patrons use their library cards and personal identification numbers to
access the computers.
That will change once the scanners are installed. The glass-topped, silver metal
boxes about the size of a package of Tic-Tacs read the print on a patron’s index
finger and use an algorithm to convert at least 15 specific points into a unique
Once a patron’s fingerprint has been recorded, accessing a computer will require
only the touch of a finger.
Library Deputy Director Mark West said the system will be implemented over the
summer beginning with a public education campaign in June. West said he is
confident the public will embrace the technology once it learns its limitations.
The stored numeric data cannot be used to reconstruct a fingerprint, West said,
nor can it be cross-referenced with other fingerprint databases such as those
kept by the FBI or the Illinois State Police.
Right now we give you a library card with a bar code attached to it. This is
just a bar code, but it’s built in, West said.
Last May, when Naperville police demanded the account information of a man who
had fondled himself in front of teenagers while viewing pornography in the
computer lab at Nichols Library, the library refused to release the information
without a subpoena, citing the Illinois Library Records Confidentiality Act.
Naperville police obtained the subpoena and later arrested Richard Blaszak, 35,
In January, Blaszak pleaded guilty to public indecency and was sentenced to 2
years of probation. He is prohibited by court order from using computers in
DuPage County libraries during his probation.
During the investigation of the incident, library officials discovered that many
patrons logged onto library computers using library cards and passwords of
friends or relatives. That realization, coupled with a new library policy that
allows parents to install automatic Internet filters on their children’s
accounts, prompted the search for better computer security, West said.
West said he had to be convinced that the technology would protect patron
privacy before he would recommend it to the Library Board.
Confidentiality and privacy [are] my middle name, West said.
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
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.
The American Library Association said only one other system uses
fingerprint-scanning technology: the Buffalo-Erie County Library System, a
collection of 52 public libraries that serves 400,000 people in upstate New
Ann Kling, support services manager, said the library launched a fingerprint
recognition program at the main library in downtown Buffalo in 2001.
The library offers fingerprint scans as an optional replacement for library
cards. The system is limited to the library in downtown Buffalo and consequently
only 1,787 patrons use it, Kling said.
Because the use of the technology is so limited, American Library Association
officials said the organization has not taken an official stand on it.
Deborah Caldwell-Stone, deputy director of the ALA’s office of intellectual
freedom, acknowledged that requiring a fingerprint scan might dissuade some
people from using library computers.
There are going to be folks who come from different political situations, folks
who come out of Central Europe who have had a history of living under
authoritative regimes who may not be comfortable with this, Caldwell-Stone
But Caldwell-Stone said libraries already collect all kinds of personal
information from patrons and at some point must be trusted to protect it.
U.S. Biometrics President Dave Delgrosso said his company’s technology is
seeping into the mainstream, popping up in banks, hospitals and other
institutions where exact identifications are important.
Now I’m wondering why they are installing this, have patrons really asked for this… there are definately less expensive and more profound ways to implement better security for patrons, and their privacy…. now, how is one to know that they on’t track where you’ve been going while using one of their computers… does this affect their wireless usage at all? All valid questions…. although I don’t need to use any of their internet computers, since I have my own..