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Drivers License Swipes Raise Privacy Concerns 313

Posted by kdawson
from the step-away-from-the-card-reader dept.
Clubs in New York, New Jersey, and elsewhere are requiring patrons to give up their drivers licenses for a swipe through a card reader. Some bars do this too. The card reader displays their birth date and the establishments let it be assumed that the only purpose of the swipe is to check the customer's age. They rarely if ever disclose that the personal data stored on the license — the customer's name, address, license number, perhaps even height, weight, and eye color — go into a database and are retained, perhaps indefinitely. While a federal law forbids selling or sharing data from drivers licenses, there is no prohibition against collecting it. A few states have enacted such prohibitions — New Hampshire, Texas, and Nebraska. Privacy advocates warn that such personal data, once in a database, is bound to be misused. From the article: "'I don't see no problem,' said [a club-goer], 22. 'That happens every day on the Internet. Any hacker can get the information anyway.' [A Web media executive] said such reactions aren't surprising from a generation accustomed to sharing personal information on Web sites such as Facebook.com and Myspace.com. 'The kids don't care,' [he] said, 'because only old people like you and me suffer from the illusion of privacy these days.'"
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Drivers License Swipes Raise Privacy Concerns

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  • It's settled then (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nametaken (610866) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @03:37AM (#16946226)

    I guess if the 22 year old "club-goer" who can barely speak English isn't worried, I shouldn't be either.
  • by frup (998325) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @03:39AM (#16946248)
    I'm 20 and I care!
  • no problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by scottp (129048) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @03:40AM (#16946250)
    "I don't see no problem,' said [a club-goer], 22. 'That happens every day on the Internet."

    Were you drunk at the time? What kind of places do you visit on the net to give this information out every day?

    The amount of private info required is WAAY out of control. And the people asking for it are WAAY out of line. I heard that reality shows were very bad, so I looked up a sign up sheet Deal or No Deal (think that was it). It was unbelieveable how much info they wanted to just choose stupid suitcases.
  • by walshy007 (906710) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @03:40AM (#16946258)
    in gilhoolies strathpine (brisbane, australia) a couple nights they've required all who enter to surrender their licenses to be put through a machine and to be photographed, the overwhelming majority don't care because if they don't do it they won't be let in.

    when it comes down to it theres a choice of, hey, awesome night out at a pub, or go home because of a violation of privacy. I don't see many young people choosing the latter.

    I just assumed most pubs were all going down this route, and that it was nothing new.
  • Easy fix (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @03:41AM (#16946262)
    Don't take your license out with you, or if you are driving, don't show it when asked for ID.

    Show your passport or another form of ID (military, etc.) which is recognized elsewhere (e.g., a liquor store).

    Establishments which do have license mag-stripe readers will likely not have the equipment for machine-readable passports, but the passport will still provide age verification.
  • by kcbrown (7426) <slashdot@sysexperts.com> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @03:42AM (#16946272)
    "'I don't see no problem,' said [a club-goer], 22. 'That happens every day on the Internet. Any hacker can get the information anyway.' [A Web media executive] said such reactions aren't surprising from a generation accustomed to sharing personal information on Web sites such as Facebook.com and Myspace.com. 'The kids don't care,' [he] said, 'because only old people like you and me suffer from the illusion of privacy these days.'"

    Yeah. Well, they won't care until that information is used against them, either via identity theft or something worse.

    Of course, most people won't experience that, but the easier it is to "steal" or otherwise misuse someone's identity, the more often it'll happen, and that means more people will be affected by it. Not that most people will ever figure out the connection. Thanks to the sorry state of education in the U.S., precious few know how to think anymore.

    And not that it matters anyway, even if they did figure it out. This is the United States, where corporations and those who run them rule all. The troubles of the lowly consumer underclass matter not at all here.

  • by Mard (614649) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @03:44AM (#16946282)
    that make me hate my generation. I'm going to have to spend the rest of my life saving their asses from this kind of neglect and apathy, and I can only hope that enough of them wake up to help me.
  • by Anonymous Crowhead (577505) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @03:52AM (#16946322)
    It's just that simple, people.
  • by ScooterComputer (10306) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @03:54AM (#16946336)
    I have already seen reports of using such data to "track" drinkers and their habits. People SHOULD care. MADD and their prohibitionist agenda has already advanced the violating of civil rights to a new high as it is, by wrapping drunk driving in the fabric of a social disease; anyone think they won't take it straight into the realm of "preventative therapy" using this information? The war on drugs/alcohol/alternative lifestyles needs to be outed for what it is: an evangelical war on sin. And its front continues to charge into the mainstream of American living, lead by religious bleeding hearts and hypocritical 60's-era hippy soccer moms.

    I genuinely feel bad for the coming generations of Americans and the pseudo-fascist oppression under which they will be burdened in the name of "for the children". No matter my age, I will fully support and understand their inevitable backlash.
  • by Kadin2048 (468275) <slashdot DOT kadin AT xoxy DOT net> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @03:56AM (#16946344) Homepage Journal
    How are you supposed to know if it's really them?

    Why do you care?

    Really -- why does it matter? Unless you're planning on using MySpace as a dating service, which is a bad idea for any number of reasons, I don't see why it matters who the actual meatspace person that's behind a particular online avatar matters. It's like asking whether the clerk at the Dunkin Donuts counter is a transsexual, or dyes their hair: maybe they do, maybe they don't. Does it really matter? Is the knowledge really necessary in order to interact with them? Clearly not.

    I think there is a bit of an obsession with trying to link online identities to real people; we need to realize that the disconnect between avatars and natural people is both intentional and desired. Who cares whether the controlling entity is male or female, or some particularly well-engineered piece of software -- it doesn't matter.
  • by PCM2 (4486) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @04:03AM (#16946382) Homepage
    Walking over to Wal-Mart, I paid cash. The computer asked them to check (not swipe) ID. Cashier saw I was "old enough", hit OK, and I was on my merry way.

    And therein, folks, lies the beauty of the free market.

  • The kid's right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lewp (95638) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @04:03AM (#16946386) Journal
    'The kids don't care,' [he] said, 'because only old people like you and me suffer from the illusion of privacy these days.'

    Sadly, this is probably the best attitude to have. With our current models for establishing identity, and our current systems for storing and protecting personal data, the truth is if your information is stored anywhere it might as well be plastered on a billboard. Someone's going to get ahold of it somehow, and it's going to be copied, and copied, and copied until it's everywhere. There's no sign of this changing. Even dramatic advances in things like encryption only close one of the many doors to your data, and as long as a single human has access to that data somehow, it's going to get up and walk away someday, and it will live in the wild forever. Ultimately, if you want to keep this information out of anybody's hands, you need to keep it out of everybody's hands. This just isn't feasible if you don't want to go completely "off the grid" and move into a fallout shelter in Montana (or just find a 3rd world country and disappear). Think how many times you prove your identity to some service (both meatspace and online, they're pretty much the same as far as propagating your data is concerned) in a given day.

    If you want to live in a society that has access to the vast databases of knowledge and instant communication ours does, ultimately you need to come to grips with the fact that there's going to be a lot of data about you in those databases, and that this data is going to spread like wildfire. Maybe that means learning to live with no secrets, and people getting comfortable with knowing each others' intimate details rather than just their public facades. Kids seem to be going in this direction already, sharing anything and everything with "friends" they've never met, just because they added them to a list on a website and got a couple pictures in return.

    Or maybe we need to completely rethink the concept of identity from the ground up, both online and off, if people truly do value their privacy. We're probably going to have to do it sooner or later due to other technological advances anyway, as is illustrated in so many science fiction books and movies. If we don't kill each other first :)

    I suppose it's either one of these choices, or we just smash the grid and go back to banging rocks together :P

  • by PCM2 (4486) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @04:14AM (#16946440) Homepage
    While a federal law forbids selling or sharing data from drivers licenses, there is no prohibition against collecting it.

    Perhaps that should read, "while a federal law forbids selling or sharing data from drivers licenses for the time being..."

  • Re:agreed (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @05:16AM (#16946734)
    Any idea if it would even be legal for them to scan and store a military ID card?
  • The primary reason (Score:4, Insightful)

    by clickclickdrone (964164) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @05:19AM (#16946754)
    Young people tend not to care much about what a government may have on them because they've never had to deal with the threat or actuality of an unfriendly government. When people start getting hauled off the streets and 'disappearing' c/o the state then suddenly that DNA and fingerprints you so willingly handed over, will seem rather more precious.
  • by lisaparratt (752068) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @05:31AM (#16946808)
    Sorry, but I live the lifestyle, and even I think intoxicated driving is fucking stupid. It's not for the children, it's common sense. Even at ones most selfish, it's still retarded - if you get pigged, or worse, end up killing somebody, then that's going to put the kaibosh on living that lifestyle. Self preservation, people, self preservation - does a cab home really cost that much?
  • Even Easier fix (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) <obsessivemathsfreakNO@SPAMeircom.net> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @05:54AM (#16946920) Homepage Journal
    Just never patronise an establishment that even requires you present ID in the first place. Stop buying controlled substances if you feel they aren't worth the cost to your dignity every time someone asks; "Your papers please". Stop subjecting yourself to searches and inspections by private security forces if you feel it isn't worth being treated like a criminal just to get into that place. Stop patronising places that ask for everything including your mother's second name for every petty transaction.
  • by Geof (153857) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @06:20AM (#16946998) Homepage

    And therein, folks, lies the beauty of the free market.

    Indeed it does: the market offered a choice. Not, in all likelihood, because of the invisible hand of competition, but simply because Wal-Mart has not chosen to use monetize (nasty word) customer information like that.

    On the other hand, the profit motive is probably what encouraged the other shop to insist on the information in the first place. This story seems to have captured the ugliness of the market right along with its beauty.

  • by DeadboltX (751907) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @06:57AM (#16947218)
    A man walks up to the barkeep, "I'm looking for a man, goes by the name of Wilson. "Seen him come around here, maybe you've heard of him?"
    The barkeep grumbles back, "Maybe, let me check my Drivers License Scanner Database". The barkeep then prints out a page of the aforementioned license information and gets proper compensation from the stranger.

    Not exactly how it usually goes down in the movies, but if this keeps up then maybe in the near future movies will look a little more like this.
  • by Bent Mind (853241) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @08:13AM (#16947770)
    the customer's name, address, license number, perhaps even height, weight, and eye color -- go into a database and are retained, perhaps indefinitely. While a federal law forbids selling or sharing data from drivers licenses, there is no prohibition against collecting it.

    On the surface, I don't really care if my local pub has my stats. At worst, I'll get an advertisement in the post for free pool on Thursday night. However, going deeper, who is looking at this data, and why? If I go to the topless pub twice a month, are the police going to use this data to profile me as a pervert. Can I expect this data to be used to obtain a warrant to confiscate my computers. Will the police attempt to blackmail me by threating to tell my wife how often I visit the pub? Will my kids be taken away when they find the pictures I took of my wife, despite the files being locked away from the kids?

    I can understand the need to keep minors out of the pub. However, they need to maintain and/or create a method that protects my privacy.
  • Re:Easy fix (Score:2, Insightful)

    by terrahertz (911030) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @08:36AM (#16947948)
    Don't take your license out with you, or if you are driving, don't show it when asked for ID.


    Cops generally frown upon an inability to produce proof that you are legally able to operate a motor vehicle when they ask you for ID during a traffic stop.

    I'm wondering if there's an easy way one could retroactively erase or significantly corrupt the magnetically-stored information on one's ID, so that it is no longer machine-readable. Even if that might be against the law, how would anyone prove that you yourself willingly rendered the information unreadable, as long as there are no obvious signs of willful physical damage to the card?

    If I could do that to my ID, I'd expect a little extra scrutiny whenever a machine did try to read it, but the human "scrutinizer" would probably just carefully read what's human-readable on the card and then send me on my way, since I still would have satisfied the requirement that I "prove" my age or what have you.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @08:50AM (#16948056)
    It does matter because you only have one real persona, but you can have an unlimited number of online avatars. Being identifiable sobers people. You're much more likely to think "ah fuck this" and waste an online avatar in a flame war, a hate tirade or a shady get-rich-quick scheme than to do the same with your one and only real identity. It doesn't matter exactly who you are, but it matters that, should you behave anti-socially, the shame is on you, not on some leftover database records. That's why systems which allow pseudonymous access pretty much universally have some sort of reputation system. The primary function of those systems is to make pseudonyms valuable so that the users hesitate to waste them.
  • by drooling-dog (189103) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @09:31AM (#16948464)
    What gives? Why do you people keep going back to these places? What could possibly be in there that makes it worth it?

    Doesn't matter, really. People are going for the illusion of being special and to be around other people who share that illusion. Our need to distinguish ourselves from the masses results in all kinds of desperate (and ultimately pointless) consumer behavior, but it does prop up the economy nicely.

    And don't say "pussy," because in my experience any major metropolitan area is pretty much choked with good-looking women, wherever you go.

    True, but they do tend to clot more in some places than in others...
  • by dfghjk (711126) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @09:55AM (#16948734)
    I'm all for sin but I'm not for drunk driving. Yes, MADD is prohibitionist; they desire to actually prohibit drunk driving. I'd like to see these reports you talk about so I can understand MADD's more devious secret agenda.

    "...anyone think they won't take it straight into the realm of "preventative therapy" using this information?"

    Yes, I don't. I also don't believe "they" (MADD) have the authority to implement "preventative therapy" even if "they" wanted to.

    "...lead by religious bleeding hearts and hypocritical 60's-era hippy soccer moms."

    I doubt 60's-era ex-hippies are leading the charge on evangelical sin prohibitions. Soccer moms may contribute to MADD, but MADD isn't about sin prohibition, it's about saving lives.

    "I genuinely feel bad for the coming generations of Americans and the pseudo-fascist oppression under which they will be burdened in the name of "for the children"."

    I bet you do. Meanwhile, drunk driving isn't illegal because it's "for the children".

    "No matter my age, I will fully support and understand their inevitable backlash."

    When you're older and suffer the damage of a teenage drunk driver rather than just being one, perhaps you'll have a different perspective.
  • by Havokmon (89874) <rick&havokmon,com> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @11:14AM (#16950266) Homepage Journal

    The amount of private info required is WAAY out of control. And the people asking for it are WAAY out of line.

    There are two sides to every story. Bars want to swipe your card so they don't get fined for serving to underage kids. By having that data, they have a leg to stand on if/when the kid gets busted.

    Of course, legislation is totally not the answer. If you don't want to swipe your license at a bar, go to another one.

    IMHO, this is exactly the same as the smoking ban. If you don't want to be around smokers in a bar, go to another one.

  • by ericartman (955413) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:20PM (#16951408)
    I'm sorry am I the only one that wipes out this info on their license? Cops hate it but I don't care and have never gotten in trouble for it. Magnets are our friends. About the bar oh well there is probably one down the street that doesn't do this and if bars start losing patronage over this I'm sure their rules would change.

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