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August 25, 2011

ID Scanners Present Privacy Concerns

To gain admission to your favorite watering hole, you may soon have to allow your driver's license to be scanned and at some places, your picture taken too!  Hand-held scanners that read your driver's license are taking off. Bars around the country are using this device to scan customers in order to weed out the troublemakers and check IDs. The information collected can easily exported to excel and/or shared with other bars and vendors via the internet. To be able to freely share someones name, age, date of birth, address,  drivers license number, and associate drinking habits is a cause for concern.  

Driver In fact, some states don't consider your driver's license information private. Under the rational of public safety, the state of Florida made $63 million last year selling the personal information in the DMV database. It is interesting that judges and law enforcement officers can request to be excluded; yet regular citizens can’t make the same request.

Because there are currently no regulations re collecting and/or sharing this type information (some states do restrict it), the privacy and identity theft concerns are real. Additionally, it is a new data source for law enforcement too. I ran into this in Las Vegas recently and declined the offer to be scanned and photographed and instead choose an establishment that respects privacy.



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Nice observation Albert. Two thoughts:

1. A Federal Law exists on the disclosure of personal information mainatined by state DMVs. It is the Drivers Privacy Protection Act. The DPPA generally prohibits the disclosure of personal information, except for a certain specified purposes. Unfortunatly, there are over twenty exception, ranging from law enforcement to insurance companies to attorneys. And, sadly, once the information is released to a legitimate user, it is very hard for the state agencies to protect against unauthorized re-disclosure.

2. If private companies are collecting this data, there there would be no restrictions on how it is used. It is like the issue of cell phone tracking -- To pick a relatively benign example, I am sure Starbucks would like to know how often I go into one of their stores, as would competitors. But what is hospitals obtained this information, and made it publicly available?

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