Phasing Out Passwords

GLENDALE, Calif. -- Passwords are a pain for government employees and help desk personnel, but they become a bigger pain when auditors get involved.

Glendale, Calif., employees were already struggling with changing their passwords every 90 days when independent auditors told city administrators that employees should change passwords every 60 days, said Scott Harmon, the city's assistant director of information services.

Harmon said the city decided to make the move to biometric identification in response to the auditor's recommendations and to save time lost when employees were unable to access their computers because they forgot their passwords.

The city has installed stand alone fingerprint scanners on approximately 25 percent of the city's desktop PCs, Harmon said, which has already saved time for the city's help desk staff.

"The fingerprint device has been very well received; people really like it," he said.

Harmon said the city's use of biometric devices has caught the eye of other jurisdictions and agencies and predicts government will make increasing use of biometric devices in the future.

The units the city bought cost $150 apiece, though Harmon said he's seen prices as low as $69.

Offenders Online

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As far as Steve Canterbury is concerned, all he's doing is making public information a bit more available.

The ACLU, Canterbury said, believes he's on the wrong side of the law.

Canterbury, executive director of the West Virginia Regional Jail Authority (RJA), created a Web site that provides information on inmates in the state's jails and has raised the ACLU's hackles.

The Web site allows users to check daily incarcerations in the Regional Jail Authority's eight jails, look up offenders, check visitation schedules and get general information about RJA's facilities.

"One of the [ACLU's] decision makers called and just wanted to know what my thinking was in going forward with this Web site," Canterbury said. "She said that the ACLU felt there was some privacy issues, and they were looking into bringing some sort of suit."

The Web site lists the status of an incarcerated person (pre-trial or convicted); the person's name, height, weight, birth date; the county in which the arrest was made; the docket number of the inmate's case; and the court in which the docket is listed.

The site does not list the charges or the convictions pertaining to the inmate, or the person's home address, religious status or next of kin, Canterbury said.

"I believe public information should be available to the public, and we've done our best to put the essential information online about not only the facilities but about individual inmates and the daily incarceration list per regional jail," Canterbury said.

At press time, the ACLU declined to comment.

Fighting Insecure Perceptions

SYDNEY, Australia -- People across the globe are still leery of providing personal information to their governments, and this fear is stifling the growth of e-government, according to a recent report from Taylor Nelson Sofres, an international market research firm.

The firm's Government Online Study examined e-government in 27 countries across the world and surveyed more than 29,000 people. According to the report, approximately 20 percent of the people who have used the Internet in the past month sought information from a government Web site; 9 percent used the Net to print government forms; and 7 percent to provide personal or household information to government organizations.

"These findings show that the potential for widespread use of government online services clearly exists," said Wendy Mellor, research director of the firm's Social and Government Division. "By overcoming genuine concerns about online security implications, the Internet will offer governments and their agencies an opportunity to