Unnerving Library Practice

Want to use the Web? Your fingerprint, please [pdf]

The Internet may have changed our intellectual landscape by opening doors to vast amounts of knowledge, but it’s also made that landscape increasingly treacherous. Meanwhile, efforts to improve security — whether scanning for fingerprints or requiring more personal information for access to wireless networks — raise questions about how to keep a valuable resource open to all without letting it be abused, and whether it’s possible to balance security with privacy.

[…] While the Naperville library has had a couple of encounters with the law over Internet use — once when someone was apparently sending threatening e-mails to a local journalist, and once when a man was charged with committing an act of public indecency while viewing a porn site — the fingerprint decision was prompted by the more mundane realization that patrons, especially children, were swapping library cards to sign on to the Internet. Like a number of libraries, Naperville requires a library card and ID to go online, and it allows parents to limit children’s Internet access with a filtering system. To bypass filters, kids simply used their friends’ cards.

Still, the move worries some privacy advocates, including the American Library Association (ALA). Just the idea of requiring computer users to identify themselves is troublesome, says Judith Krug, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. “They say they destroy the records…. The problem is that while you can delete them from your mail, you have several layers under there,” says Ms. Krug. “I understand the question [of Internet abuse] and I’m sympathetic to it, but I don’t know how to deal with it. Where do you draw the line?”

tp://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/06/03/1157250&from=rss”>Anonymous Library Cards An Option?