Biometrics for Library Computers Gets Dropped in Illinois Town

May 6--A year after announcing its libraries would be among the first in the nation to require a fingerprint scan to use public computers, Naperville's library system has canceled the controversial project.

Library officials insisted Friday the plan was scuttled because of software compatibility problems and not because of objections raised by civil libertarians over privacy rights.

"It was strictly a technical issue," said Library Board President Stephanie Cassioppi.

Last May, the three-library system signed a $40,646 contract with U.S. Biometrics, a Naperville firm, to install fingerprint scanners on 130 computers with Internet access or a time limit on usage.

At the time, the library said the technological investment was necessary to ensure the library knew who was using the computers.

The announcement came after a man fondled himself in front of teenagers while viewing pornography on a computer in the downtown Nichols Library. Library officials said an investigation revealed that many people logged on to computers using library card accounts from friends or relatives.

The fingerprint scanners were supposed to go on line in August, then December. When software compatibility problems still could not be rectified by this spring, the library decided to cancel the project, said Frances Tong, information technology manager.

Tong said getting new software to solve the compatibility problem was not an option.

"They tried very hard to interface their products with ours. They came very close a few times, but could not do it," Tong said.

Library Director Donna Dziedzic said the library does not have an alternative plan to tighten security on computer usage.

"We'll keep looking and we'll see where it leads," she said.

Dziedzic said, as of Friday, she did not know whether the library would be getting any of its money back from U.S. Biometrics.

"We're still in the process of talking with U.S. Biometrics about contract issues," she said.

U.S. Biometrics released a statement Friday noting that its technology has been successfully used around the country and internationally by financial, educational, health care and retail businesses.

jkimberly@tribune.com

<<Chicago Tribune (KRT) -- 05/08/06>>

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