The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

30 March 2004

None of their business

Oklahoma County's Metropolitan Library System has announced some new privacy measures.

Beginning immediately, applications for library cards will not ask for the patron's Social Security Number. (This is in keeping with state policy, which has barred the SSN from driver's licenses.) The eight-digit card number will no longer be printed on the checkout receipt, and transaction records will be deleted once the transaction is completed (material returned and any fines paid). And the library's customer list is not available for sale or rent.

I'm wondering if the deletion of transaction records isn't intended as a foil for the USA Patriot Act, Section 215 of which is supposed to override state confidentiality rules for libraries. The pertinent Oklahoma statute reads as follows:

A. Any library which is in whole or in part supported by public funds including but not limited to public, academic, school or special libraries, and having records indicating which of its documents or other materials, regardless of format, have been loaned to or used by an identifiable individual or group shall not disclose such records to any person except to:

    1. Persons acting within the scope of their duties in the administration of the library;

    2. Persons authorized to inspect such records, in writing, by the individual or group; or

    3. By order of a court of law.

B. The requirements of this section shall not prohibit middle and elementary school libraries from maintaining a system of records that identifies the individual or group to whom library materials have been loaned even if such system permits a determination, independent of any disclosure of such information by the library, that documents or materials have been loaned to an individual or group.

Assuming the Department of Homeland Security isn't going after sixth-graders — pre-teen terrorists seem to be purely a Palestinian phenomenon — it looks like they're going to be requesting records that will not exist.

Unless, of course, they're tracking some indolent suspects who can't return books on time.

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