SAN FRANCISCO—The San Francisco Public Library plans to renew their efforts in deploying radio frequency identification tags in their books, the San Francisco Examiner reported.
Installing RFID tags was proposed in 2004, but the American Civil Liberties Union Northern California and the Electronic Frontier Foundation opposed the idea. The ACLU questioned the possible invasion of privacy that was required with the use of the microchips.
Libraries uphold their patron’s right to check out any book on any topic without the titles being revealed to the public. The ACLU continues their opposition of the installation of RFID tags.
“RFID has profound implications for civil liberties in San Francisco, including for immigrants’ rights. It’s more important than ever that San Francisco safeguard privacy, free speech and civil liberties for all,” Nicole Ozer, ACLU’s technology and civil liberties policy director, told the Examiner.
The Board of Supervisors ultimately rejected the proposal of placing an RFID system in the public library during the annual budget process.
Head Librarian, Luis Herrera is pushing to install the RFID tags in the near future.
Adopting the RFID tags may help the library improve the sorting of books and theft prevention. The tiny microchips exchange data with readers by emitting radio signals. The radio signal is picked up by readers within 30 inches of the micro-chipped books.
The technology is used in other libraries and allows readers to check out books with self-service machines.
“Since the technology has been used in libraries for over 10 years, procedures for ensuring patron privacy are well-established and have proven effective. This technology will provide significant benefits to both staff and patrons, helping us meet our goal for service excellence,” Herrera said last week to the Library Commission.
The installation of the RFID will cost $7.5 million. It’s unclear whether the city will approve the library’s request to install the microchips at this time, given San Francisco’s current budget deficits. SF Mayor Edwin Lee expects all city departments to purpose a three percent cut for the fiscal year.
According to Katherine Jardine, a library spokesperson, the San Francisco Public Library has not made a formal proposal.
“We have made no commitments or decisions at this point, and we’re looking forward to working with ACLU and EFF in addressing any shared concerns,” Jardine said.
The Library Commission still has many things to consider before they appeal to the Board of Supervisors again.
“I am not going to say I am opposed to RFID, but I do think we need to consider both the virtues and the drawbacks from the various angles before we decide to spend money in this budget situation,” said Melissa Riley, The Liberian Guild representative.