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Naked in Naperville

I’ve been pondering the decision by Naperville Public Library to fingerprint its patrons with a technology created by Biometrics, USA, also based in Naperville (thanks, Jessamyn).

ALA staff told American Libraries, “As with filtering and privacy concerns, library staff also need to commit to a conversation with their users, communicating frequently and well about changes in technology.”

I checked the Naperville website and I notice they could use a Q&A for the public. (They could also lose that “closed” sign on the main page, which startled me into thinking that branches had been shut down for loss of funding, or maybe until everyone in Naperville could be fingerprinted.)

I’ll help out the Naperville Public Library with a few Q&As I thought of:

Q. Some librarians are busy battling Patriot Act subpoenas from the feds. Do you feel this is a good time to introduce a technology that establishes an entire, separate database of user information tied to computer usage?

A. Absolutely! It’s the easiest way we know of to ensure that when we’re subpoenaed under the Patriot Act we have a large database of information to turn over to the Feds. Give them the data and they should be good to go.

Q. But didn’t you say that this information was specially encrypted?

A. We’ll be extra careful to give the Feds the hardware along with the data.

Q. Can I walk into the library and sit at a table without being fingerprinted?

A. Yes, but we’re hopeful that will change soon. Our deputy director wants to target book check-out next: “The next logical step once we had perfected the technology with computer access is to extend it to circulation.” Requiring fingerprints for in-house reading and walking around will be the final step in closing that pesky privacy gap.

Q. How do you know this technology is safe?

A. Our library board looked at the issue for three months.

Q. No, really: how do you know this technology is safe? I’ve heard that biometrics can be defeated by gummy bears.

A. Local Naperville stores are cooperating by removing gummy bears from local inventories and pledging not to purchase this candy in the future.

Q. You have an RFP on your website suggesting you’re planning to expand your facility. Is it possible that requiring fingerprints to use library computers could reduce library traffic?

A. Every time we introduce a new technology, such as the Internet, library usage shoots up. Why not fingerprinting? Besides, in-house Internet computers are used by the poorest of the poor, who do not have computers at home. These people can’t afford lawyers anyway.

Q. The incident that prompted you to decide to fingerprint patrons was when a adult male was caught fondling himself in front of a library computer. Yet you have stated that “young people in particular like to swap library cards,” and the man in question didn’t falsify library records and was caught with the information you provided. So why again are you fingerprinting patrons?

A. Care for a gummy bear?

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