Sep 252010
 
 September 25, 2010  Surveillance

Libraries are among the last bastions and heroes of privacy.  And yet, as John Kelso comments, at least some libraries have decided to sacrifice privacy for security theater:

Thanks to the Austin Public Library’s new conduct policy, you could get tossed from the library for refusing to take off your ball cap.

You heard that right. Starting next Friday, Austin’s libraries will begin enforcing a dress code that prohibits ball caps, sunglasses and hoodies. You’re asking why. It’s the same reason given for about everything else that goes down these days: keeping you safe.

Hey, I’m kept so safe these days that I’m almost afraid to leave the house.

The city’s library system has put up bumper sticker-style signs at all of its 21 branches, the history center and its Recycled Reads bookstore on Burnet Road. These signs show international “no” signs over illustrations of ball caps, sunglasses and hoodies.

The library came up with the rule so that customers can’t hide their faces, said Toni Grasso, the libraries’ administrative manager in the office of programs and partnerships.

“We have security cameras in place, so like banks and courthouses, we’re asking people to remove sunglasses and anything that hides the face, for the security of staff and customers,” Grasso said.

So if you’re up to something funny, they want to know who you are. Let’s hope something funny never includes taking out the wrong book.

Read John’s complete commentary on Statesman.com (via @SLWorona).

I am really sorry to hear that the library system has taken this step, as surveillance cameras will likely record who is reading what or looking at what bookshelf, etc. And that raises serious privacy concerns. Will people now have to hide their library books inside plain brown wrappers to keep their reading choices private from spying eyes? Will they be afraid to go look up something for fear of being caught on camera?

No, I’m not happy about this at all.

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