Students have mixed feelings on if fingerprint upgrade increases security

Students wait in a line that wraps around Library North’s first floor to get their fingerprints scanned. Photo by Jade Johnson | The Signal

The library has thrown away its old card swipe machines and upgraded to state of the art fingerprint scanners, with a big portion of the Atlanta campus student body not yet on board.

Though outlined to bring more security to those affiliated with the university, some students are skeptical of the efficiency of fingerprint scanners.

“What is this really going to do that the cards didn’t do? If you’re a Georgia State student you have a card,” student William Breen said. “There might be a bump [that’s] making more authorized access, but at the same time as far as people getting stuff swiped from them it was students doing it to students, so it’s not really going to make that much of a difference.”

Jeff Steely, dean of libraries, said that the purpose of the new fingerprint scanners are to efficiently identify those who are entering the building. The identification cards only recognized that the individual was a Georgia State student or faculty member, but now everyone can be positively identified by their fingerprint. Steely said the new scanners also protect against the possibility of ID cards being lost or stolen.

“Cards are less secure, in that they can be lost, stolen, or shared,” Steely said. “The practice of using security personnel to visually compare ID photos with library users, which security staff used during 2016 as in interim measure, is highly labor intensive.”

Fears of the update

Other students are afraid to have their fingerprint in a database and feel that the need to register your fingerprint to enter the library is excessive and an invasion of privacy.

“It’s kind of scary, because you know it’s a lack of privacy even though it is more secure, but you can’t sacrifice one for the other. It’s almost as scary as Sweden getting rid of its paper money. You go full electronic and it just tracks everybody. It’s a little bit more monitoring,” Georgia State student Lukaas Heidenreich said.

Steely said that the fingerprints scanned will appear in a database which only Georgia State has access.

“No company or entity other than [Georgia State] will have access to this data. It is housed at [Georgia State], and used solely for identification to provide access to [Georgia State] resources,” said Steely.

As specified by the library website, “No actual fingerprints are captured or stored by the system. The system takes measurements of geometric features of the finger and then applies a series of computer operations, or algorithms, to create a unique alphanumeric value that is the only information related to the fingerprint stored in the system.”

After students have graduated, fingerprints will be discarded.

“Auxiliary Services, in partnership with Instructional Innovation and Technology, will implement automated procedures for disposing of data stored in the system, such that the stored data would have a lifespan of six (6) months or less after students, faculty or staff leave the university, further reducing chances for unintended usage,” according to the library website.

Opening day

On Jan. 9, the fingerprint scanners made their first appearance and with them came a line wrapped around the first floor of the library for fingerprint registrations.

“It’s rough. I’m all the way in the back. It’s so long. I’m over it. I’m ready to go. I feel like they can probably put three more people at the desk, because I know that they usually have like ten people checking for IDs last semester, which doesn’t make sense,” Fernanda Ribeiro said waiting in the registration line to enter the library.

“It‘s ridiculous. It’s one person working it and it’s like everyone is here. There should have been more people and a broader time, because doing it between 10 [a.m.] and 2 [p.m.] is nothing, especially if you have a class to go to,” Autumn Moore, another Georgia State student, said.

Mishal Jamil, the attendant at the registration desk, said that the library was not intended to be the main location for registration. Instead students were supposed to go to Auxiliary Services to get their fingerprints scanned and the library would be the secondary location.

“The fingerprint registration is also going on in the Panther card office, actually Auxiliary Services they are the ones that are doing the fingerprintings. The library is just assisting them in that. We have this station set up from 10 [a.m.] to 2 [p.m.], but now and days it’s busy, so we have their station set up from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.”

Breen felt that the urgency to have their fingerprint scanned had not been made explicit last semester, which resulted in so many students gravitating toward the library during the first week of classes.

“They set up tables last semester, but they didn’t give out any notification that said ‘hey you need to do this’ it was just like ‘hey if you want to you can set up a fingerprint scan,” Breen said. “This is thoroughly unnecessary and what’s more is that they did not do a good job in getting the word out last semester that this was going to be a necessary change.”

Steely clarified that scanning your fingerprint is not mandatory, but is “highly recommended” and should be registered by the end of January. So far only 17,008 students have registered
their fingerprints.

The visitor policies

While rumors flowed around campus that last year’s library armed robbery incidents were committed by non-Georgia State individuals, Steely refuted those rumors and said there is no proof. He said the measure to exclude visitors from the library was only to make security upgrades easier.

“Restricting access to visitors was just one of several steps we could take quickly until the university completed permanent security upgrades for the library,” Steely said. “Those upgrades are now complete. To the best of my knowledge there was no evidence that an authorized visitor was involved in the incidents last winter.”

From January to August 2016, visitors had to be scheduled ahead of time, but starting September, visitors have been able to gain normal access after the library implemented a new visitor management system.

The library does not have plans to permanently restrict access to the public, because Georgia State is partially funded by taxes and has an obligation to allow citizens of Georgia to utilize their resources, according to Steely.

“While our primary goal is supporting [Georgia State] affiliates, as a research library we have a larger mission to collect, preserve and provide access to the scholarly record for the community. Georgia State University is also a public university, partially funded by tax dollars, so the citizens of Georgia have a special claim on use of our resources,” he said. “Every public university provides public access to its libraries.”


Does the fingerprint scanners help you feel safer in the library?

William Breen
Photo by Syrina Merilan | The Signal

“Not really. What is this really going to do that the cards didn’t do?” –William Breen

Tyler Montgomery
Photo by Syrina Merilan | The Signal

“No. I honestly don’t like the idea of them having my information. I don’t like that at all.” Tyler Montgomery.

Fernanda Ribeiro
Photo by Syrina Merilan | The Signal

“No, because at least before it was just [the security] looking at us, which was fine. Now, they’re having to take up our physically DNA, which isn’t right.”– Fernanda Ribeiro

Autumn Moore
Photo by Syrina Merilan | The Signal

“Yes, I feel like it would be safer, because you can lose your ID card and someone can steal it, but having your fingerprint in the system, makes it a lot quicker to get in.”–Autumn Moore

Chisom Enujioke
Photo by Syrina Merilan | The Signal

“Yes, I kind of feel safe with it, because I’ll be the only one, no one else will get in. Let’s say something happen and someone gets in, because they look identical to me, but through my fingerprint I expect them to be able to differentiate that it wasn’t me. At the same time it kind of makes me feel a little bit [like a] criminal.”–Chisom Enujioke

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