VOLUME 31, NUMBER 17 THURSDAY, January 27, 2000

Libraries institute new logon procedure
Process designed to curb abuses at reference computer workstations

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Reporter Assistant Editor

A new authentication, or logon, process that no longer allows anonymous use of the university libraries' reference computers has some faculty members concerned about confidentiality and freedom-of-speech issues.

Logon But library officials said that faculty members are misinterpreting the purpose of the authentication procedure, which was implemented not to track or monitor the activity of library users but because of several serious incidents of criminal activity that have been traced to these workstations.

According to Stephen Roberts, associate director of the libraries, administrators in Computing and Information Technology demanded that the libraries implement such a procedure after receiving several complaints and calls from legal organizations about "fairly horrendous violations of campus computer-use policies."

Roberts said the university has documentation of email threats and spamming that originated from the library reference terminals, which normally are to be used for library research. Specifically, Roberts said that death threats were sent to President Clinton at the White House, and mass mailings were sent to female students at other colleges and universities informing them that they were being followed and threatening them with attacks. Since use was unauthenticated at that time, UB is unable to identify the offenders.

"Before, we were at risk of UB losing its credibility as a conscientious Internet user," he explained. "According to CIT, most other colleges and universities have no anonymous ports."

Roberts, who said he supports the new process although he did not initiate it, called it "a necessary inconvenience" and a "security precaution" considering the abuses that have occurred at these terminals in the past.

"Faculty members need to realize that no network is anonymous. What they do in their offices is not necessarily private, either. They may have freedom of speech, but they don't have freedom of privacy."

Judith Adams-Volpe, director of Lockwood Library, said she also has dealt with concerned faculty members, but says no one should worry because libraries would not look up any activity unless legally forced.

"Libraries uphold the highest ethical principles of confidentiality for library-related activities," said Adams-Volpe. "We would need a court subpoena before we could look at any activity. Libraries are extremely cautious about this kind of thing."

Both Roberts and Adams said there have been no complaints from students, probably because they're used to signing in at all other public workstations.

The process requires that UB users type in the 14-digit number that appears in the lower left side of their UB Card and a simple, individualized password.

Public users from outside the UB community are required to obtain a UB Courtesy Card from the reference desk after showing valid photo identification. The UB Courtesy Card is good for one year. Students and faculty and staff members who forget their UB Cards when visiting the libraries also can obtain a temporary Courtesy Card

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