EFF’s blog has a post about a new way libraries could accidentally infringe on patron privacy. Some common color laser printers have the ability to encode uniquiely identifying and traceable information into pages they print. If you care enough about patron privacy to not reveal if a patron has a library card, would you care enough to not reveal that they have used your computers/printers?
According to experts, several printer companies quietly encode the serial number and the manufacturing code of their color laser printers and color copiers on every document those machines produce. Governments, including the United States, already use the hidden markings to track counterfeiters.
Peter Crean, a senior research fellow at Xerox, says his company’s laser printers, copiers and multifunction workstations, such as its WorkCentre Pro series, put the “serial number of each machine coded in little yellow dots” in every printout. The millimeter-sized dots appear about every inch on a page, nestled within the printed words and margins.
Libraries Say Yes, Officials Do Quiz Them About Users, in the NY Times today, according to the results of a recent ALA survey. While this is not evidence of USA PATRIOT Act abuses per se, it points to increasing concern on the part of law enforcement of what people are reading [the article points to a cases of libraries being asked for a list of patrons who had checked out a book about Osama bin Laden] in ways that compromise state library privacy laws. As of this morning, ALA has missed a chance to capitalize on this good press by having anything at all mentioning this study on the front page of their web site, pity.
Ms. Sheketoff at the [American] library association acknowledged that critics of the study may accuse the group of having a stake in the outcome of the Patriot Act debate. “Sure, we have a dog in this fight, but the other side has been mocking us for four years over our ‘baseless hysteria,’ and saying we have no reason to be concerned,” she said. “Well, these findings say that we do have reason to be concerned.”
The Canadian Library Assocation posted a privacy briefing on how the USAPA was going to affect Canadian libraries [pdf]. Tom Morris asks the British Library what he can expect from them in terms of patron privacy in the age of the USA PATRIOT Act, the response is not encouraging. [lj]
We all probably know that section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act will sunset at the end of this year. What you may not know is that people have been working hard in the Senate to make sure that it doesn’t. The ACLU is reporting that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence approved legislation which will expand and reauthorize sunsetting parts of the USAPA. Declan McCullagh has a few more details. The bill [pdf] should be heading to the Senate floor. Now might be a good time to contact your elected representative.
I would really like to know what privacy or security problems public libraries have that need to be solved with expensive biometrics equipment and patron ID-ing via fingerprints? Please note that I am not related to Naperville Public Library director Mark West who seems to have a willful misunderstanding of the difference between a fingerpint and a bar code. Please also note that US Biometrics who sold the library the system is headquartered in Naperville Illinois. Here are some more specifics about their arrangement with the library. Note the obligatory library pervert tossed in to the article just to make people think that this level of increased security is necessary for some crime-fighting reason. If you read through to page 2 of the article you’ll notice that only one other library system in the US uses fingerprint IDs on a voluntary basis. The library serves 400,000 people. 1,787 patrons use it. How do you think that works out, in terms of return on investment? [thanks jill]