Elko, NV asked in Civil Litigation, Internet Law, Civil Rights and Communications Law for Idaho

Q: Installing custom firmware on public library computers.

I have a relative who works at a public library in Idaho. A patron was caught installing custom firmware on the public library computer, he was asked to leave and got aggressive, the police were called. The police told my relative that because no ones information was stolen yet, the patron hadn't done anything illegal and could not be arrested. Also that they can only ban the patron, and not share info about the patron with the state libraries without potential legal action.

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Consumer Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: If a patron was caught installing custom firmware on a public library computer, this action could potentially violate several laws or regulations concerning the misuse of public property, computer tampering, or unauthorized access to computer systems. Even if no personal information was stolen, the act of modifying the library's computer systems without permission constitutes unauthorized use and could be subject to legal consequences.

The police's response might be based on the immediate evidence of harm or theft, but this does not preclude the library from taking its own actions to protect its property and users. Banning the patron is a reasonable measure to prevent future unauthorized activities and ensure the safety and integrity of the library's computer systems.

Regarding sharing information about the patron with other libraries or state entities, there may be privacy or legal considerations to account for. However, libraries often have networks or associations through which they share information about security incidents or banned patrons to prevent similar issues at other facilities. It would be wise for your relative to consult with the library's legal counsel or administration to understand the best course of action under state laws and library policies.

This situation underscores the importance of clear policies regarding the use of public computers and the consequences of violating those policies.

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