Monday, November 14, 2005

Who is Reading Your Library Books?
"Police and Security Services investigating serious crime or terrorism in England and Wales have the right to seek information on books borrowed or Internet sites accessed by certain library users." This is the conclusion of a barrister consulted by CILIP - the Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals. He also expressed the opinion that existing legislation is broad enough to permit the installation of spyware on library computers in "appropriate cases". A summary of the advice was issued through the eGov Monitor on October 28 but seems to have aroused little interest in the press.

In the US the so-called Patriot Act has met considerable resistance from Librarians, but if the quotations from CILIP representatives included in the Monitor summarises their position it looks unlikely if they will question applications for access to personal data held by Libraries, or raise strong objections to them, although they will object to "fishing expeditions".

A more detailed summary of the advice is available on the CILIP website at:

The advice given implies that warrants or some other similar forms of official authorisation are required to enable access, but some libraries have provided guidance to staff for some time to cooperate with police requests for information, without specifying the need for warrants. Just what might consitute "terrorism" is an open question at the moment, given reports that more than 600 people were questioned under "terrorism" powers by police in Brighton during the New Labour conference earlier this year.