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ID Tech May Mean an End to Anonymous Drinking 514

Anonymous Howard writes "If you visit a lot of bars and restaurants, you've likely crossed paths with driver's license scanners — machines that supposedly verify that your license is valid. In actuality, many of these scanners are designed to record your license information in addition to verifying them, and those that authenticate against a remote database are creating a record of when and where you buy alcohol. Not only that, but they're not even particularly effective — the bar code on your license uses an open, documented standard and can be rewritten to change your age or picture. Collecting our driver's license information is one thing, but collecting data about our personal drinking habits is not only a violation of, according to the ACLU representative quoted in the article, privacy and civil liberties, but this 'drinking record' could also create problems for people in civil and criminal lawsuits as proof of alcohol purchases in DUI cases or evidence of alcoholism in divorce lawsuits."
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ID Tech May Mean an End to Anonymous Drinking

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  • by plopez ( 54068 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @05:39PM (#21990770) Journal
    With this information employers could decide not to hire you if they felt you drank too much, in their opinion, or at all. Companies owned by fundamentalist christians, mormans or even muslims may decide to do this.

    Additionally, insurance companies could drop you if they found out, for exaple, you were out drinking 3 nights a week.

    If this info gets out it could have a huge impact on people.

  • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by eli pabst ( 948845 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @05:44PM (#21990836)
    But websites using tracking cookies have little way of correlating your particular cookie with who you actually are unless you provide them with that info by choice. At the very most they can track an IP address, which in the era of dynamic IPs and TOR is largely useless unless you have access to ISP records. Here they have a nice little database including name, soc, and home address. Why would they even need to collect anything like that in the first place? Smacks of big brother to me.
  • by Lendrick ( 314723 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @05:44PM (#21990864) Homepage Journal

    The database should require warrants and be overseen by a provacy advocate group as well as some seriously paranoid geeks for security. But the data should be there if required to prove innocence or guilt.
    That's all well and good if we could ensure that it would be used in only this way, but the sad reality is that a system like this will almost certainly be abused. The minimal benefit a system like this may provide isn't worth the risk of abuse.
  • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr. Underbridge ( 666784 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @05:46PM (#21990880)

    A good majority of websites also do that, and who knows what they are doing with the data?

    Really? Web sites track my behavior and correlate it with my name, address, date of birth, and (last I checked in some states) my social security number?

    Doesn't sound too kosher to me.

  • DUI? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by moosesocks ( 264553 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @05:46PM (#21990894) Homepage
    Wouldn't the driver's BAC be the "smoking gun" in most DUI cases?

    The evidence of an alcohol purchase isn't going to be remotely sufficient to convict without a BAC test, and the presence of a BAC test alone should be more than sufficient to produce a conviction. I honestly don't see where the purhcahse record could hypothetically fit into the equation.

    If there's an argument for or against ID scanning, this isn't it. Even from the cops' perspective, this isn't even going to help them 'nab the bad guys' any more than they're already equipped to do.

    Papers, please?
  • Re:That's why (Score:2, Insightful)

    by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Thursday January 10, 2008 @05:48PM (#21990922)
    If it ain't distilled from pine cones and stored in an old paint thinner can, it ain't true party liquor!
  • by makaera ( 187078 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @05:48PM (#21990932)
    1) Why is it assumed that entering a bar automatically implies that you were drinking?

    2) I find it really dubious that employers would ever get access to this sort of information and I think that it is unlikely that they would be allowed to use it without being sued.

    While the potential exists for all sorts of "big brother" type applications, I find most of these scenarios to be somewhat far-fetched.
  • by KublaiKhan ( 522918 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @05:50PM (#21990952) Homepage Journal
    What's the point anymore? What with insane DUI penalties and rabid 'enforcement' bordering on entrapment, not to mention the publicity campaigns (posters all over town here saying, in big letters, "TWO DRINKS could MAKE YOU A FELON"), I've no desire to go to a bar. If I want to drink, I'll buy my liquor at a grocery store with a couple of $20s from my weekly 'petty cash' and I'll invite a couple friends over, or just drink alone. Sure, there's no playing pool or being hit on by drunk chicks, but there's also no loud, smelly football players drinking piss beer--that, and the prices are a lot better when I mix my own drinks.
  • by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) * <> on Thursday January 10, 2008 @05:51PM (#21990990) Homepage Journal
    That's pretty ridiculous. You could make the same argument about any data. Just think: if we put a GPS receiver and a radio transponder in everyone's car, we could compile all sorts of interesting data! We'd be able to tell if someone was speeding or driving aggressively, if they commit a hit-and-run, if they're cheating on their spouses ... heck, we could even get rid of all those traffic helicopters. Does anyone think that's not a really fucking terrible idea? It would be an unbelievable mass invasion of privacy.

    Lots of information has the potential to be useful. That's not enough, by itself, to invalidate the very serious privacy concerns.

    Anytime you start collecting information in advance, "just in case," you're fundamentally doing something wrong. You're treating innocent, honest people like criminals in order to make life marginally easier for the cops. If that's what people in law enforcement say they need to succeed, then we need to fire them and get some more innovative law enforcement, and give them better resources -- not twist our society around backwards in order to make their jobs easier.
  • by Otter ( 3800 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @05:53PM (#21991026) Journal
    But if I ever do, I'd like to have a false bar graph taped on the back of my license. Who will be the first to make a web site to generate these at will? And how long until that web site is labeled a terrorist act?

    I don't follow your logic: not only do you not get your Manhattan, you get your ass tossed in jail for as long as it takes them to figure out that you really do have a valid ID. And they're liable to charge you for tampering anyway.

    Yeah, that's really sticking it to Dick Cheney! Fight The Power!

  • by PsychosisBoy ( 1157613 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @05:56PM (#21991068)
    Well, if the false information that comes from your barcode, and is displayed on their screen, doesn't match the information printed on the front of your license, the bartender might become suspicious. Best case, they don't serve you. Worst case, they call the cops.
  • by masdog ( 794316 ) <> on Thursday January 10, 2008 @05:56PM (#21991082)
    The problem is that this system will only be able to prove that you were in the bar, not that you were actually drinking.
  • by hardburn ( 141468 ) <[hardburn] [at] []> on Thursday January 10, 2008 @05:58PM (#21991114)

    I have some tea to sell you. It's at the bottom of Boston Harbor.

  • by ivan256 ( 17499 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:00PM (#21991168)
    Not only do you not have a reference to back that up, but it's also highly improbable.

    I'm sure that humans would have discovered accidentally that sweet liquids contaminated with yeast produced alcoholic liquids far sooner than we had an understanding of what "alcohol" actually was. Well before we had language, much less than organized religion.

    However I'm willing to admit that I'm speculating, as my post has a little in terms of references as yours...
  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:02PM (#21991220) Journal
    I'm all for personal privacy but I really can't see the loss of this sort of privacy outweighing the benifits of getting drunk drivers kept in jail or having a factual record for divorce hearings.

    Whoawhoawhoa there. Divorce hearings? You think it's a good idea for your entire drinking history to be brought up in a divorce hearing? That sounds to me like the most abusive application possible for this data.
  • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:04PM (#21991262)
    Groups like MADD are the modern day puritans. They're not content with just protecting basic public order, but rectifying perceived personality flaws by using the state to remake society. MADD and those like them have never met a restriction on drinkers' rights they didn't find too onerous, short of the way that Sharia tends to punish drinkers.

    I hate being reminded of the damage that alcoholics do as part of some stupid scheme to further erode basic rights. I grew up with an alcoholic father. Don't fucking remind me. There are only times I've nearly punched a girl in the face was when I had a proto-MADD member who didn't grow up in such a household piously get in my face saying that I didn't know what I was talking about WRT alcoholism and family life.
  • by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:05PM (#21991300)

    That is not civil disobedience; it's breaking the law.

    Civil disobedience is nonviolent refusal to comply with a law or command of government, either because the law or command itself is perceived as unjust or because or because the government issuing the law or command is viewed as illegitimate independent of the merit of the particular law or command.

    So "That is not civil disobedience; its's breaking the law" reveals a deep misunderstanding of the entire concept of civil disobedience. That's not saying one could not argue that the form of disobedience suggested is a poorly chosen and/or ineffective method of civil disobedience.
  • by UbuntuDupe ( 970646 ) * on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:09PM (#21991360) Journal
    Additionally, insurance companies could drop you if they found out, for exaple, you were out drinking 3 nights a week.

    Yeah, man, I hate when they accurately judge my risk of an accident and prevent me from leeching off of safe drivers.[1]

    [1] Assuming frequent drinkers really are more dangerous as per actuarial tables, which may or may not be true.
  • by garcia ( 6573 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:09PM (#21991366)
    No, what needs to happen is a little education of the public and then vote with your feet. I still will not enter a store because they use ID scanners. I have absolutely no problem driving out of my way to an Apple Valley liquor store to buy beer because they don't scan. I still tell them, every time, that I'm there because they protect my privacy.

    Lakeville Liquors just built a new facility less than a half mile from my house. I walk by it daily and am proud that it joins the ranks of Starbucks as an establishment that I will never step foot in.

    In addition, I have used a high powered earth magnet on my ID's magnetic stripe rendering it useless in any scanner including the cops (who asked me to get a new ID because it was "worn out"), the smoke shop (for cigars), or anywhere else that feels the need to scan ID.

    If enough people realized what those machines did (I make sure to tell everyone around me when I see one being used before walking out) then businesses would stop using them because less people would enter the store. Sadly I'm dreaming about that because no one cares.
  • Re:Huh? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:10PM (#21991382)

    The bigger issue is that it's not hard to tie all of this data together to get a picture of a persons live, less their privacy. Lets just say the RIAA pumps an extra million bucks into some senators reelection fund and manages to get a bill passed that makes it a crime to purchase more than 500 pieces of recordable media a year (without some sort of license).

    It would be very easy for the government to subpoena the records of all the major chain stores and very quickly have a list of people who broke this law. They could even write it into the law that it's retroactive to some date. Or how about people who also have netflix accounts and own a DVD writer and have purchased DVD-R media in the last year... Even if it's not a technical "crime" they could probably sue you in civil court with a "Pay us 5k and we'll go away" shake down game.
    There is one defense against that, though. Cash. Personally I only purchase things with cash except for online stuff. Even online I try to avoid using anything other than a visa giftcard.
  • by Zonk (troll) ( 1026140 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:32PM (#21991732)

    So what? It will force people to drink less, or to stop drinking at all, which can only be a good thing.
    Less drunks around, less accidents, less deaths. Yes, banning alcohol is an idea whose time has finally come.
    Yeah, it sure worked great last time []. Just like since marijuana was made illegal it's usage has dropped completely [].
  • by causality ( 777677 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:33PM (#21991740)

    So? What's wrong with that? Why shouldn't a company be able to decide such a thing? Should "Bob's Morman Supply" not be able to say something like that? Would about "Bob's Office Supply"?

    It may be illegal now (the ACLU would certainly argue for that), but I don't see why a company shouldn't be able to do that.
    Allowing corporations to control your lifestyle while away from work is very dangerous. Regarding alcohol, the only legitimate concern of a company I work for is that I am sober when I show up for work and remain sober while I am on the clock. This is the time that they pay for, and they have a right (within limits of course) to determine what I do or don't do during that time. What I do in my private, off-time that they are not paying for is absolutely none of their business. Trying to monitor what I do during my private time away from work is nothing but an invasion of privacy that should never be tolerated for any reason. I honestly can't understand why there is even a discussion about this; it's patently obvious.

    This is all fine with me. I can understand why many people wouldn't want this, and I wouldn't push it. But if we keep records to make it easier to convict drunk drivers or people who aren't supposed to be drinking (like perhaps because of some prior conviction where that was made a condition of probation). Those are both fine for me.

    Law enforcement is not supposed to be easy. One description I have heard of fascism is when the desire for efficiency of law enforcement outweighs any concern about civil rights. Judges (or whomever) may set a nearly-unenforcable condition for a probation if they choose to do so -- that is not my problem. It certainly does not give them or anyone else the right to invade my privacy for the sake of making their job easier.

    Also, this will do nothing or next to nothing to stop drunk drivers. So this database can confirm that someone was at a bar and had an alcoholic beverage. It will not confirm whether they drove to the bar, walked to the bar, took a cab, or had a designated driver. So if a crime is committed, this will tell you even less than what could be learned by old-fashioned policework, i.e. interviewing witnesses.

    I wish there were just one politician with the balls to be honest and say "yeah, I could say that this is for your safety or to help make the world a better place, but really we just want to invade your privacy so that we can have a society increasingly under central control." They are too cowardly to be so honest and it's fitting that they are elected by people too cowardly to value freedom more than security.
  • by 0xdeadbeef ( 28836 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:38PM (#21991828) Homepage Journal
    That is not civil disobedience; it's breaking the law.

    Just what do you think civil disobedience is, then? Writing a strongly worded letter to your senator?

    The most effective way of avoiding a "tyranny of the majority" situation is to make it clear that enforcing an unjust law will be more trouble than not having it in the first place.
  • by parcel ( 145162 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:45PM (#21991922)

    Sorry, but you're completely mistaken. A law being unjust is not justification for breaking.
    Tell that to Ms. Parks.
  • by Zonk (troll) ( 1026140 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @07:08PM (#21992248)

    That's right, they shouldn't dictate to you what you do when you're not at work. On the other hand, should you be able to force them to hire you, regardless? This brings into play both freedom of association and property rights.
    So do you think it's fine to not hire someone because they're Christian, Jewish, Atheist, etc? IMHO, if someone is qualified for the job and keeps their personal and business lives separate, there shouldn't be an issue. If I wanted to smoke (I don't, btw, never have and never will) after a stressful day, that's my business. Not the employers. If the company doesn't want their employees smoking on the premises, near the premises, in uniform, etc, I feel that's completely acceptable.

    If I don't want to hire you because you smoke, tough cookies. Can I be forced to associate with you like that? Can I be forced to use my property (ie: my business) that way?
    I'm not saying employers have to be forced to hire smokers. I dislike laws like that. I have zero issues with the employer not allowing smoking during work hours. The issue I have is employer restricting what people do in their own time.

    If someone doesn't smoke at work, doesn't preach at people, does their job, shows up on time, acts professional, etc, it should be none of the employer's business.
  • by Omega996 ( 106762 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @07:37PM (#21992642)
    er, I think you may want to reopen the case and investigate, Dr. Holmes. Prohibition of alcohol was in effect from 1919 to 1933. During that time, marijuana was illegal only in the following states in the US: Utah, Wyoming, Texas, Iowa, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Arkansas, Nebraska, and Montana. That leaves a large area of the country where marijuana was legal, and I don't think it was even covered under the Harrison Act (which taxed cocaine and opiates). That of course was back when the federal government couldn't do things such as declare drugs illegal - it was up to individual states to do so.

  • Re:God dammit (Score:3, Insightful)

    by amRadioHed ( 463061 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @07:43PM (#21992728)
    Out here in America we have similar jokes about lousy American beer, but we also have plenty of great beers too and no one I know drinks any of those horrid pilsners. And to any Australians who get to snobby about their beer all I've got to say is "Fosters".
  • by Reality Master 201 ( 578873 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @07:43PM (#21992730) Journal
    1) a great argument for national, single payer healthcare like in most of the rest of the non-3rd world.

    2) What the fuck are you talking about? If I'm an alcoholic, my company doesn't have any responsibility to pay for my treatment, except as it regards medical costs (see point one).

    As for the final toss of line, "Those of us who have nothing to hide, have nothing to worry about", fuck you.

    I've also got nothing to hide, and I still don't want my boss poking around in my private life. If you're ok with it, fine; don't foist your willingness to drop your pants for your boss on the rest of us. It's assholes like you that enable totalitarian governments.
  • by jdjbuffalo ( 318589 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @07:52PM (#21992862) Journal
    MADD has most certainly gotten out of hand. Their founder, Candy Leightner, has stated as much on numerous occasions. The group has been cooped by prohibitionists.

    I really wish we could find a way to disband them or at least minimize their pull with State and Federal governments. They makeup stats by including calling it a drunk driving accident if a designated sober driver is driving his/her drunk friends home. Same goes for if you hit a drunk pedestrian. And if you look at the real stats they state that lowering the BAC below .10 has effect on the number of drunk accidents. Their whole movement is predicated on pushing the laws as far as they can to give them a reason to exist and get more money.
  • by gknoy ( 899301 ) <<moc.smetsysizasana> <ta> <yonkg>> on Thursday January 10, 2008 @08:05PM (#21993008)

    Using cash.
    To bribe the person at the door to not scan your ID I assume.

    If they scan your ID, they know you were THERE.
    If you buy liquor with CASH, the only way they can prove you drank (or bought booze, actually) is to ask eyewitnesses.
    If you buy liquor with electronic means, then they can easily say "Hey, you were here, AND you bought booze" by querying databases. You suddenly become the result of a SQL query, effectively. A credit card purchase record would most likely give the SAME information, though, couldn't it?
  • by eli pabst ( 948845 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @09:10PM (#21993714)

    Yeah, man, I hate when they accurately judge my risk of an accident and prevent me from leeching off of safe drivers.
    I have a professor who buys a crap load of beer for an informal journal club group, but doesn't drink any himself. Should his premiums go up simply because of some number in a database that makes him look like a heavy drinker? How about we base premiums on a more accurate predictor like the number of drunk driving accidents he's actually been in, rather than extrapolating based on an assumption of an assumption.
  • by commodoresloat ( 172735 ) * on Thursday January 10, 2008 @09:55PM (#21994066)

    That's because weed wasn't legal when they made alcohol illegal ;-)
    Actually weed wasn't made illegal until the 1930s, well after alcohol Prohibition ended.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 10, 2008 @10:24PM (#21994268)
    Well, yes. Presumably your country has a saner drinking age, which would drastically reduce the use of fake IDs to buy liquor. You probably also have functioning public transportation, so not everyone has a driver's license.
  • by Alpha830RulZ ( 939527 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @11:11PM (#21994664)
    Actually, pot was legal throughout prohibition. Is was the [] Marijuana Tax Stamp Act of 1937 that caused pot to become verboten.

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