It was welcome news when the Delta County Library District was named one of five libraries nationwide to participate in a Super Wi-Fi trial. The equipment has been installed on the Harvester Building in downtown Paonia and at Paonia Town Park, providing free access to the Internet.
However, the disclosure of individual user names has raised concerns about the protection of users' identities.When the system was activated, John Gavan, IT manager for the library district, shared the name of the first person to log onto the system with Ed Marston, owner of the Harvester Building. The user complained to Gavan. Then, in a report to Paonia Town Council last week, Gavan again disclosed the name. The user once again told Gavan the library should not be violating a patron's right to privacy.
Disclosing the user was "a mistake," according to Annette Choszczyk, district library director.
Asked if the district was now monitoring and collecting information on wireless users at the county's libraries, Kit Stephenson, regional manager, responded, "The desktops, laptops, anything owned by us has the software that when you turn it off it wipes everything out that was done that day."
As for people using their own devices, the library does not monitor them "in any sense, in any way in the library," Stephenson said.
The library asks people to use their first name only when signing in to use one of the computers. Those log sheets are thrown away each night. The extent of monitoring computer users in the libraries is restricted to counting the number of users and to see if any one user is on the computer too long.
"No one is saving up what you are doing [online]," Choszczyk said about their new Super Wi-Fi system in downtown Paonia and at the town park.
"The way I understand this trial, and this is a trial program with a grant, is that we have to collect the statistics during the trial which is six months."
Choszczyk explained that as part of the national trail, the library is required to track usage. She said the report shows the kinds of things that get used and what kind of volume is being used — "not to know specifically who, but in general."
The Super Wi-Fi hotspots in Paonia show up on mobile devices, laptops and computers as a wireless network. Accessing the network with a web brower automatically takes the user to the Delta County Library District website, without a login or agreement page.
Choszczyk does not believe the installed equipment collects specific websites users are accessing. A report, "Library Public Hotspots," prepared by Gavan lists the top 10 applications by usage. It does not link a specific user with specific websites. The applications used are listed as miscellaneous web, miscellaneous video, miscellaneous secure web, CDNs, and then Flickr, Facebook, YouTube, Netflix, apple.com and Google Search.
The report identifies the top 10 operating systems used. Android was number one followed by Apple iPhone and then other Mac, Apple and Windows operating systems. It also identifies the hardware being used.
Choszczyk does not believe anyone's privacy is being compromised in the collection of that data. But she sees no justification for listing the names of the top 10 users of the Super Wi-Fi. Gavan's report shows the top 10 user's description as reported by their device. This often includes first and last names or the name of the business.
Choszczyk said Gavan will have to remove client names from the report before it is sent to whom they received the grant from, Gigabit Libraries Network in conjunction with Carlson Wireless, the equipment manufacturer.
If the library continues the Super Wi-Fi service after the six-month trial concludes, the district wants users to log in with their library card number.
The trial is being done "to see if this will be valuable to the libraries and valuable to the towns. If they use it, how will they use it?" Then the decision will be made by the FCC and Gigabit Libraries to make it available to more towns.
"We are the only library in Colorado that is trying this at all," Choszczyk said. "Any monitoring as such is mostly just during the trial period — just to see how it works. But I agree that no one person should be identified in the report. That is not fair."blog comments powered by Disqus