Magazine article Computers in Libraries

New Technology's Surprising Security Threats: There Will Always Be Security Issues Associated with New Technology. an Active Stance Protects Not Only Our Collections and Services, but Also the Needs of Our Patrons

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

New Technology's Surprising Security Threats: There Will Always Be Security Issues Associated with New Technology. an Active Stance Protects Not Only Our Collections and Services, but Also the Needs of Our Patrons

Article excerpt

The relatively brief history of digital libraries has been marked by explosive developments in new technologies, great implementation ideas, and an all-too-common backlash effect as institutions and people get used to new ways of doing old things. Even as RSS feeds, blogs, and other fast-response systems become commonplace, a push-me-pull-you process still endures over security issues, with a big impact on community building. This has been a messy, but very fruitful, process. It has given us the open source movement, SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, the broad alliance of universities that are influencing the scholarly publishing industry), and a more systematic approach to information security.

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In recent years, security issues have increasingly come to dominate the technological development process-although still in a more reactive than proactive mode. It now seems more important than ever to monitor security trends and policy developments, especially if we regard technology as a potential community builder. In the past few months, three unrelated events of diverse origins have convinced me that flexible thinking about security can carry far-reaching community benefits--provided that we get out and talk to the power players early and often.

Trojan Horse or Trick Pony?

When I recently made a presentation at Internet Librarian International '04 in London, I enjoyed talking with Scottish and English friends about new technology in U.K. life. One of the starkest differences between U.S. and U.K. consumers is how they use digital telephony. Picture phones and instant messaging rule in Britannia, and yet these functions are only now penetrating the market in the States. I rented a cell phone from Vodaphone and started receiving text messages from friends within the hour. But more to the point at hand: Picture phones are powerful information tools.

That very week, in the Oct. 7, 2004, Circuits section of The New York Times, Douglas Heingartner published "Connecting Paper and Online Worlds by Cellphone Camera" (http://www.heingartner.com/techreview.html), a fascinating article about how cell phone cameras can "link the paper and online worlds." (Wait, isn't that what we do? Don't we know everything about it?) Well, the point of his article is that cell phones can take pictures of acceptable resolution and create new strategic value. With a low level of difficulty, people can use these devices to snap a shot of "underused" information and import it to a printer or Web server. His best example was cell phone photography of geographic data using SpotCode, a digital targeting system roughly akin to bar-code technology (see http://nytimes.com/circuits for details). Snap a picture, beam it at a printer, or send it to a Web site--it's that easy. SpotCode is a new technology, still catching on, but it sure helps you see the value of picture phones, beyond the typical family gatherings or party settings where most people use them.

But it's also not too hard to imagine the dark side of picture phones. Not long before leaving for Internet Librarian International, I read a more ominous forecast about these devices on TechNewsWorld.com (http://www.technewsworld.com/story/35169.html). The potential corporate espionage risks of this new technology are legion: people smuggling covert photos out of competing firm offices, disgruntled employees "leaking" data, theater managers worried about protecting live performances, even people "shoplifting" magazines by photographing every page at a newsstand--it's a long list. This new technology, now ready to be enhanced by SpotCode into an information transferal device, is both hot and scary. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Fighting a LOCKSS Lockout

In a remarkably short period of time, we've all gotten used to the theory of LOCKSS (lots of copies keeps stuff safe). …

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