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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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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @03:44AM (#16946286)
    Every year I get sent a new list of the address and phone number of everybody in my city, listed by last name. Nobody ever considered that to be an invasion of privacy, but nowadays somebody trying to invent a phone book would probably never be able to do so.

    Oddly, I just recently started wondering about why random people's license plates get blurred out on non-fiction TV shows. Who cares? If you already know the person's name, you can find out where they live. Knowing their license plate number doesn't give you much data that you didn't already know or couldn't look up anyway. And oftentimes the car is just in the background, and know its license plate doesn't tell you any information!

    I suppose maybe the difference is that the data was always available, just not in a useful form. Now that cheap computers can quickly process large databases, maybe it's more of a problem.

    dom
  • by macadamia_harold (947445) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @03:50AM (#16946310) Homepage
    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.

    Seriously, there's no law against providing a replica license with garbage on the magnetic strip to clubs and bars if you're legal age, is there? After all, you're not misrepresenting your credentials, you're preventing identity theft.
  • Not just the bars (Score:5, Interesting)

    by karmatic (776420) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @03:54AM (#16946332)
    This isn't just the case at bars and clubs.

    About a week ago, I went to purchase Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. Because I look under 40, they wouldn't let me buy the game without ID. Fair enough, I pull out my student ID, and offer it.

    I was informed that not only would it require offering government-issued photo ID, but it would be necessary to extract all of the information off of it, rather than just enter my age/dob. I refused, and escalated the issue to a manager, who refused to override, and informed the cashier she would be fired on the spot if she hit the "looks over 40" button.

    Of course, the manager was unable to provide me with all the information on _her_ license (it's private), but couldn't see why I wouldn't want to provide my name, address, social security number (I got my license before they switched to a numeric system), race, and (potential) disabilities to target, just to buy a video game.

    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. I found this rather odd, given how "RFID Gung Ho" they seem. Perhaps it's about ruthless efficiency, rather than a need to track people. Or, maybe it's the fact that half the people seem to be illegal immigrants who shop at my local Wal-Mart.
  • by PCM2 (4486) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @04:08AM (#16946402) Homepage
    In my younger days (I'm a ripe old 29 now), if a blood sample would bump me to the front of the line at a hot club in LA, I'd have gladly given it up.

    GAH! I've never understood this attitude. In San Francisco, we don't really have this "hot club" phenomenon. They're trying to pull it off in the North Beach neighborhood, but that pretty much draws exclusively bridge-and-tunnel clientèle. With so many things to do and so many places to go in this city, most locals can't imagine what could possibly make it worth waiting in line to get into a club. Any club! And then I hear these stories about being made to wait by some beefcake bouncer, only to be allowed entry half an hour later and ... find out the club is pretty much empty. What gives? Why do you people keep going back to these places? What could possibly be in there that makes it worth it? I know it's not the music. And don't say "pussy," because in my experience any major metropolitan area is pretty much choked with good-looking women, wherever you go.

  • by macadamia_harold (947445) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @04:11AM (#16946424) Homepage
    Maybe there's no law against showing it to clubs (specifically), but there sure are laws against making it in the first place.

    Then just bombard your real license with some high-power magnetic fields and you're all set. There's no law that says you can't erase the fucker.
  • Re:no problem (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Heir Of The Mess (939658) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @04:17AM (#16946454) Homepage

    I get e-mails from my bank every day that have a link to a web site that requests all of this information. Maybe she was talking about that?

    Seriously though, the internet/world is so full of whack jobs that I wonder about the wisdom of linking to my blog site from slashdot. I'm fully expecting to get punched in the face outside my home one day for posting flamebait about Linux on slashdot (I get bored sometimes).

    Magazine articles can be a hazard, I heard of a guy that was working on a government project that got an article about his work published in a Magazine, including a picture of him with his name. Weeks later he got a snail mail at work. In it was a picture of his family walking out the front door of his home with gun sights drawn around their heads, and on the back was a note telling him to stop working on the project.

    The other day I was reading about this guy who loves facebook. Apparently when he sees an attractive woman talking he listens in to find out her first name, and then looks for her on facebook. He then tracks her life as much as he can, and if she goes through a break up or something he will try to get in a situation to meet her. I wonder if that will give others here ideas?

  • Re:Bummer (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Lost Engineer (459920) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @04:42AM (#16946598)
    I don't know if that was a joke... but I'll bite. Ever since certain states passed laws that say that you must card everyone who looks under 27, 30, 35, or whatever, stores have tried to one up them. It's easier to implement a consistent, if ridiculous, policy than to trust your underlings to correctly judge age.

    The reason he should be able to get away with it wrt video games is that there is no legal authority going around busting stores for selling games to underage games, unlike say alcohol or tobacco-containing products.

    As a sidenote, I was turned down by a local grocery store the other day because my license had a hole in it, while I was waiting for a new one to come in the mail. The clerk explained: you need a valid photo ID. I explained that the ID was still valid and unexpired despite bureau-jerks at the DMV putting a hole in it and that I had a paper temporary, but that didn't hold water in her mind. I haven't bought beer there since.
  • Re:no problem (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @05:14AM (#16946722)
    What kind of places do you visit on the net to give this information out every day?

    I frequently give out my address when websites ask for it. Well, actually I give a fake address in a different country, earn at least $5000000 per year, and happen to be at least 90.
  • Re:no problem (Score:2, Interesting)

    by slarrg (931336) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @05:26AM (#16946796)
    The amount of private info required is WAAY out of control.

    Exactly! First the state requires me to have an ID to drive a car then they print my Social Security Number and birthdate on the ID. With these two numbers anyone can mail off a fake a credit card application and get a card in my name. Then to top it all off, I'm expected to show this information to everyone from employers, any police officer, any security person, shop clerks who need to verify I'm really me, and even the bouncers at the local pub. This is insane!

  • Re:no problem (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @05:32AM (#16946816)

    I get e-mails from my bank every day that have a link to a web site that requests all of this information. Maybe she was talking about that?

    I know what you're really talking about, but in all seriousness, I had a call from my bank at work today trying to sell me credit. Except, I never got around to telling my bank my current employer, nor is my direct dial number listed. When I tried to find out how they had got hold of me, I got waffled at, and finally told they would pass my concerns on to a manager. And I did ask enough questions to be sure that it was either the bank I have an account with, or someone who had pretty much ripped off the banks entire DB entry on me.

    The information is being linked up at a frightening rate. I'm not surprised people have no expectation of privacy, when complete strangers can tell you all sorts of details about yourself.

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

    by Sylver Dragon (445237) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @05:35AM (#16946830) Journal
    Stalin called, he wants his wet dream back.
    Seriously, the idea that you you can be tracked any place any time and all of your thoughts and beliefs are open and exposed for scrutiny is a horrible idea. All its going to take is a few nutcases to pick out a group and persecute the hell out of them. Think the religious-right folks are tough on gays now, wait until they know how to find every single one. Might as well line 'em up and tattoo them for easy identification and "treatment".
    I have a better idea, how about we make any company which collects personal information financially and criminally responsible for protecting that data. Say, if for every person's data you lose, misplace, have stolen or sell (no pre-canned allow it to be shared contracts, you can only get it for internal use), your company must pay 1% of the previous year's reported gross profits; and, all of the board members get a year in jail (no time off for good behavior). I'll bet you that after the first two or three occurrences every company will either put a huge amount of protection around that data, or just stop keeping it. A win either way.
    Privacy is an important component to the Right to Liberty. In order to be able to have unpopular ideas it is sometimes necessary to be able to hide those ideas from general scrutiny. Without privacy everyone will either accept the popular opinion (popular being defined by the people with the guns) or they will simply disappear.
  • by symbolic (11752) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @05:46AM (#16946886)

    I received a call from our local ILEC trying to sell me a better deal than I currently had. It sounded ok, so I decided I'd go for it - until the rep told me that he had to connect me with a third-party verification service. He said they would only ask about three fairly general questions, and that would be it. As soon as they asked for my birthday, I terminated the call.

    Also, people should know that companies selling card readers often list, as a *feature* the ability to capture information and use it later - for mailing lists, sale to other businesses, whatever. It's probably safe to *assume* that anyone swiping your license will retain and use the information long after your visit.
  • by LowneWulf (210110) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @06:25AM (#16947008)
    A club in Ontario swiped my license for 'verification'.

    My next birthday, I got a cute little letter at my home inviting me to celerbate at their club. Needless to say, I don't let people swipe/scan my ID anymore.

    Thankfully, Canada's PIPEDA privacy law now makes it illegal for them to deny providing you a service because you didn't provide personal information unrelated to the essential requirements for the service.
  • Re:no problem (Score:3, Interesting)

    by taragui (973029) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @11:01AM (#16950026)
    If you do this a lot, may I introduce you to RIG [sourceforge.net], the random identity generator? It generates valid, yet fake US-address data.

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