On the heels of Blockbuster’s “end of late fees”, comes an implementation of credit/debit system for libraries. The problems are questions of privacy, civil liberties, and even financial liability for unreturned materials.
From the civil liberty perspective, the Patriot Act in the USA allows authorities to keep an eye on what you are reading without the need for a warrant. If anyone tells you that your account is, or has been, watched, that person can go to prison. Here’s an exerpt of this article that catches the thust of the idea:
You’ve seen anonymous cash cards already; you may even have received them before. They’re better known as gift cards. Using the same principle, libraries can issue a borrower card that uses cash, rather than personal ID information, as collateral. Here’s an example: If a privacy-minded user deposits $20 to get an anonymous library card, she can check out The Terror State without identifying herself. Her account balance is temporarily reduced by $15, and when the library checks the CD back in (in good condition), her balance is restored to its original value.
(Hat tip: Slashdot)