John T. Cross


Today a lot of private businesses have adopted the practice of driver's license swiping where proof of age or security issues arise. This practice has beneficial uses for both private entities, in identifying underage persons and those with fake identification, and law enforcement. However, the problem arise when the private sector, businesses are not using the information to merely identify underage customers or those with fake identification but store the information encoded on the barcode in a computer database. No federal laws and very few state laws regulate the collection and use of this information while the private sector is not following the basic guidelines to make people aware that their information is being collected electronically and to alert them to how it is being used. This comment argues that United States citizens have a right to privacy with regard to the information contained on their identification cards. First, the background of how personal information is being stored on Driver’s license is presented and a more detailed description of how swiping technology works follows. Next the author examines the state and federal regulations currently existing to govern this practice of driver's license swiping. The Fair Information Practice Principles are also being presented and a brief history of their application is given. Then, all the current applications of swiping, including law enforcement and private enterprise use is examined and a more detailed analysis of the potential costs and benefits of scanning and data retention is given to determine whether the practice should continue to be unregulated in private enterprises. It is argued that a person should have the right to purchase something that is legal without having to exchange his or her sensitive information for this item and that people should be aware that their information is being collected and receive notice as to how it could be used. In conclusion, it is suggested that legislation be put in place to regulate the practice of scanning and storing patron's personal information since it is almost inevitable that once the practice of swiping becomes widespread among private enterprises that must check for proof of age, this information may fall into the wrong person's hands.