Great Taste, Less Privacy
Driver’s licenses are being used for more than just identification, given the type and amount of information stored on the cards’ bar codes and magnetic strips. The scanning of such licenses is usually a security measure–restaurants and bars do it to spot underage drinkers with fake IDs, while convenience stores do it to confirm the age of cigarette buyers.
Bar codes also ease the retrieval of driver information and the notation of citations handed out by police in the field.
But the information carried on such cards can also be exploited for marketing purposes, which has privacy advocates worried. For instance, a bar can track how often patrons visit, when they come in, and which ones enter in groups; when this information is combined with sales data, a bar could ascertain which drinks to market to specific groups.
Rich Carter of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators says this practice is a source of concern, adding, “The policy is that you shouldn’t be collecting the info for one purpose and using it for another.”
Over 40 states put bar codes or magnetic strips on licenses, and some cards have up to 2,000 bytes of storage space. Ari Schwartz of the Center of Democracy and Technology says the scanning of driver’s licenses could also be used as a vehicle for fraud: In one scenario, a bar or restaurant employee could use a personal scanner to scan cards twice, so that the captured data can be sold to ID thieves.
Also raising privacy proponents’ hackles is the possibility of embedding even more personal data into license codes, or adopting driver’s licenses as a national ID card.
Abstracted by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center(NLECTC) from the Wired News (02/06/04); Zetter, Kim.