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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 Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 10, 2008 @05:36PM (#21990726)
    For those of you in states where the license only has a magnetic stripe on it, and not a bar code, the magnets from inside hard drives do a great job at wiping out the data on the magnetic stripe.
  • by hardburn ( 141468 ) <[hardburn] [at] []> on Thursday January 10, 2008 @05:40PM (#21990782)

    I'm of legal drinking age already and I haven't yet seen one of these machines in my area. 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?

  • by Romancer ( 19668 ) <romancer @ d e a t> on Thursday January 10, 2008 @05:41PM (#21990784) 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. When peoples safety and lives are at risk there needs to be some intelligent oversight of these issues but you can't have a blanket privacy enforcement. It just doesn't work. I think that a middle ground would apply, especially here. 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.
  • by p5linux ( 764567 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @05:46PM (#21990896)
    Don't go to those 'high tech' places. Go to the real gin joint down the street. Besides once you are a regular at a place they don't card you. I went to a place that rhymes with Drasy Conky on rte 110 in amityville, NY that had one of those machines. Next thing I know I'm getting all these advertisments for night clubs and bars sent to my home. Then my wife starts asking me all these questions about where I'm going. not cool.
  • by Rorschach1 ( 174480 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @05:48PM (#21990926) Homepage
    In California they use magstripe readers. Not that they can't be faked, but they take a little more equipment, and you can't really just paste one over the real stripe.
  • by davidsyes ( 765062 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @05:52PM (#21991016) Homepage Journal
    On the radio the discussion was about east coast bars swiping information, lying to the patrons and telling them it was for security reasons, to prevent re-entry of banned or troublesome former-patrons.

    (Me here forward:)

    The thing was, they were promptly selling this information to other parties who reprocessed it as thank you offers, happy birthday offers, coupons, ads etc with extreme precision because these companies had ALL the necessary information to reduce the cost of marketing these people. It also gave these marketers a way of upping the price/cost of information these marketers wanted.

    Later, when I moved to Oregon for a year, I saw the cashier at a convenience store actually SWIPING the card of someone buying alcohol and I think cigarettes (it's been a while, so it could be the reverse or the checking of purchase of both...).

    That turned me off. I don't recall buying alcohol myself at that mart. What I think is stupid is swiping the ID of someone who obviously is well above 25 or 30, and doesn't appear to be wearing spy or makeup-artist appliances.

    I guess then that people with passports (I don't know if stores will try to scan these and if they can't then decline/refuse the sale) can present them instead of their driver's license.

    Somebody needs to come up with a two-or-three-part license/age-verification/right-to-vote device/card so that for clubbing and purchases not involving checks or credit, only NAME AND AGE/DOB appear.

    Then, for big-ticket items, the second part (matching) has to be presented to provide ADDRESS (Current and maybe 5 previous or 5-10 years of previous addresses based on reconciled IRS & quarterly payroll records for working/retired adults).

    The THIRD part would be for retirement/pre-retirement benefits/public assistance receipt and cash-out of stocks/purchase of property and so on, that don't need to be passed on to anyone except government/law enforcement.

    Maybe I've blurred some areas, but I'm ALL FOR saying "SCREW YOU" to clubs, bars, and any place scraping information they have NO business obtaining, possessing or reselling. If they want to ban patrons, then use imagery/facial recognition equipment at the point of ejection or to replay tapes of a confused situation/melee.

    Anyone reading headlines about bar bouncers participating in assaulting or stalking of patrons can easily see how this 2-3-part identification deprives nosy bar or shop employees from gleaning residency information on cash-only patrons. It could possibly even work for police identification situations when the police stop is a graduated information determination: First: verify the detainee is NOT who your on the lookout for. If name is STILL too close a match, ask the detainee to produce part two.

    Same could work for other scenarios. Use your imagination.
  • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mysticalfruit ( 533341 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @05:56PM (#21991072) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • You couldn't even tell if you cross-referenced with credit card information. One mixed drink might cost the same as two beers or four sodas, so anyone looking to use that info wouldn't be able to prove that the individual who went to the bar actually drank.

    They wouldn't know if they cross-referenced it with the information in the credit card company's database. But there's the information at the other end -- at the bar -- that they could easily get, if they have access to the information in the card scanner already.

    Most upscale bars use electronic register systems for tracking tabs and ringing up bills; these show all the items that you've ordered, and then if you pay by credit card they have that as well. So it would just be a matter of going into the bar's computer and finding the bill associated with a certain credit card number (here's hoping they're only storing the last four digits...) and you've got that person's order for the evening.

    Also, I'm not sure it's a safe assumption that the credit card company only gets the bottom-line data. On my American Express statements, there's sometimes fairly granular data available. In some cases food, drinks/bar, and tips are broken out separately. So obviously the restaurant's system is passing that data up to Amex when it runs the transaction. I haven't seen this on anything except Amex, but it proves the capability exists and is being utilized. (They also print the ticket or confirmation number of rail and plane tickets that you buy with your card, right on your statement, and sometimes the order number of some online stores as well.)
  • by internic ( 453511 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:00PM (#21991174)

    In California they use magstripe readers.

    What happens if it gets demagnetized?

  • by chiph ( 523845 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:04PM (#21991280)
    Yes yes, very few of you are lawyers, but I'm wondering what the legality of removing/obscuring the barcode so that it no longer scans.

    The info is still there on the front of the license so a human can still read it (I swear I wasn't speeding, officer!). But you wouldn't end up as easily in the junk-mail databases.

    Chip H.
  • by AndersOSU ( 873247 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:05PM (#21991314)

    If we put a GPS receiver and a radio transponder in everyone's car, we could compile all sorts of interesting data!

    You mean like a cell phone?

    Look this whole thing is sour grapes, just because something could be misused doesn't mean it will. Bruce Schneier isn't even concerned that this is an issue, which I take to be a first.

    Credit cards, ez-pass, cell phones, and supermarket club cards all give you greater exposure.
  • by bherman ( 531936 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:16PM (#21991504) Homepage
    We have two barcodes on our IDs. One 1D which only has the ID number the 2D has unencrypted driver's license or identification card number, the date of birth, the expiration date, and cardholder name as well as encrypted part which has address and other items. The law has made it illegal to decrypt the barcode except for law enforcement.
    Ergo, if a bar starts sending you crap after you've visited you can assume they decrypted the info. However they could still track you for the "DUI" and "Divorce" with the ID number alone, but I guess more people are worried about the spam aspect.
  • Re:God dammit (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:18PM (#21991528) Homepage Journal
    "I once attempted to buy a twelve-pack at a gas station in Rochester, NY. At the time, my license had a magnetic strip and not a barcode (I do not live in New York), and they wouldn't sell the beer to me because they couldn't scan it with their reader. Luckily, I was with a friend who had a NY license."

    Ok...I was guessing this was more of a northeastern type thing. I get the feeling they're really MUCH more hung up on drinking laws up there. You mention having two drinks and driving home up there, and people I talk to get their panties all in a wad. Much more relaxed down here in the SE...hell, we even have drive through daquiri shops here where I live, and until 4-5 years ago I think it was, we didn't even have an open container law here.

    Anyway, I've noticed over the years that the NE is much more uptight about liquor laws than in the SE. I'm not sure how bad it is out west, but, I hear it is pretty bad out there too.

  • by Pojut ( 1027544 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:20PM (#21991570) Homepage
    That's because weed wasn't legal when they made alcohol illegal ;-)

    Really, if you look at the effects that it has on people, combined with the uses of each product (other than drinking, alcoholic beverages don't really have much of any other use...whereas marijuana/hemp has THOUSANDS of uses) it would have made more sense to keep marijuana legal than to keep alcohol legal... []

    Do your part in helping to end the prohibition of Marijuana and industrial hemp.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:30PM (#21991718)
    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. 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?

    Oh, I forgot, most people don't really believe in property rights or any of those other important ones anymore. It's mostly that I'm free to do with my property as long as the majority doesn't decide to seize it from me, right?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:41PM (#21991870)

    Personally, I don't like marijuana either. I'm with you on industrial hemp, though.
    Really? Have you actually been high? I know back in middle school I smoked but never really felt it. In college, though, I started using various pipes (carbs ftw!), gravity bongs, an vaporizers. Felt awesome every single time. That's really the reason I don't drink, alcohol just dulls me and makes me feel bad, but weed relaxes me and makes everything better.

    Try getting high on a vaporizer. That just feels amazing. If you still don't like it, then whatever.
  • by WillAffleckUW ( 858324 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:46PM (#21991932) Homepage Journal
    By law, retaining and using this information is a felony.

    So, while some national chains may think this is a great idea, they'd better start getting themselves fitted for orange jumpsuits, IMHO.
  • Re:DUI? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by carpe_noctem ( 457178 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:53PM (#21992024) Homepage Journal
    I'm an American expat living in Germany. One of the things that has been interesting to me here is the difference of how prohibited goods like alcohol and cigarettes are treated in terms of minors.

    I must say, I always get screwed when I come back to America to visit and try to go to a bar or buy beer, because I have completely gotten used to not having to bring an ID with me, even though I am clearly over 18/21. The annoyance of this, and the fact that the establishments are only enforcing the rules out of fear that I'm an undercover cop, add to the ridiculousness of the rules.

    In Germany, you only have to be 16 to buy alcohol. There is talk of raising this (and the cigarette age) up to 18, but frankly, it won't make much of a difference given the easy access to either substance. The really [i]nice[/i] thing about this is that you are therefore of drinking age before you are able to drive. Thus, by the time that kids learn how to drive, they've already learned how to hold their liquor, and are less likely to make a stupid mistake like getting behind the wheel.

    I used to live in Indiana for five years, where the drinking age is of course 21. The number of drunk driving accidents I witnessed or heard about via people that caused them was substantially higher than in a place where alcohol is proudly sold every day and hour of the week (if you know where to get it), at gas stations (heh), movie theaters (which really rocks btw), and supermarkets (and none of that 3.2% crap, either). There is an obvious conclusion to all of this -- people like to drink, and they're going to do it anyways, includng kids. It's better to create an atmosphere where people learn how to handle this responsibility, and are encouraged to enjoy it without risking the lives of others.
  • Abolish Liquor Laws (Score:3, Interesting)

    by h4ck7h3p14n37 ( 926070 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @08:10PM (#21993072) Homepage

    Could someone please explain why restricting the sale of alcohol to those under 21 is worth all of the costs/consequences that follow.

    • Citizens are forced to obtain identification cards in order to buy alcohol
    • Vendors must check each patron's Id or risk a fine/lose their liquor license
    • Vendors must apply for liquor licenses
    • Citizens must pay taxes to support the infrastructure needed to manage the permit process
    • Citizens must pay taxes to support the additional burden on law enforcement for enforcing the liquor laws
    • Younger people develop unhealthy views towards alcohol

    Why can't we simply allow anyone who wants alcohol to buy it? Vendors can choose not to sell to certain people (ie. young children) and the public can choose whether or not to frequent businesses that sell alcohol. If a store is selling booze to eight year olds, then the public can simply boycott the business.

    Sure some people become addicted to alcohol, but why should I be punished for their problems? Sure kids might obtain liquor, but surely parents are capable of addressing such a situation. Sure some people choose to drive drunk and get in a car accident that maybe kills someone, so arrest them for doing so.

    By creating a system of laws around the consumption of liquor, we've simply given those in positions of authority new tools to oppress the masses. Liquor stores can be harassed by police sending in underage people. Motorists can be harassed with things like drunk-driving checkpoints. Businesses can be harassed by politicians on liquor control boards who demand bribes, kick-backs or "favors" in exchange for approving an application for a liquor license. Patrons can be harassed by establishments that resell the information on their identity cards.

    I say eliminate the whole damn system. I find it doubtful that keeping it in place is less costly than doing away with it entirely.

  • Use a passport (Score:2, Interesting)

    by fizzbin ( 110016 ) * <> on Thursday January 10, 2008 @09:57PM (#21994074) Homepage
    1. Carry a passport and use that as ID. For almost any purpose that does not require proof of authorization to drive or proof of address, that should suffice.

    2. When you show your passport or ID in a bar or restaurant to prove your age, keep a hold on it! Don't let it out of your hand, let alone your sight.
  • by J'raxis ( 248192 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @10:22PM (#21994250) Homepage

    Fortunately, they appear to be illegal in my state already: RSA 263:12, X [], 260:14 [].

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

    by biovoid ( 785377 ) on Friday January 11, 2008 @01:40AM (#21995660)

    Mod parent up. I'm an Aussie and I've had some truly outstanding, world-class US beers. The craft-beer industry over there is exploding and, quite frankly, one of the most exciting things to happen to the beer industry world-wide in centuries.

  • by dmsuperman ( 1033704 ) on Friday January 11, 2008 @01:42AM (#21995674)
    Absolutely not. I think personally it's kind of fucked up for a company to not hire you based on smoking habits, but then if you think it's wrong just don't work for that company. Honestly, racism is absolutely stupid to me but if a company doesn't want to hire someone based on race, that's their choice. This is the land of choice. If you want to be racist, that's fine as long as it doesn't infringe on others. I'd say your own business doesn't necessarily infringe on others; They choose to deal with you or not. If I'm paying you, you're damned right I'm going to take EVERYTHING about you into account. It's my money, why should the government have a say in how I spend it?
  • by CmdrGravy ( 645153 ) on Friday January 11, 2008 @06:06AM (#21996880) Homepage
    I was visiting New York once a few years ago, I think I was 27 years old at the time and had been drinking, legally, in the UK for over 9 years and hadn't ever been asked for ID for at least 11 years. One bar did actually demand ID from me to prove I was over 21 and when I explained I was English and didn't have a US driving licence the idiot barman said without ID he wouldn't serve me. I did have my passport so I showed him that but he wouldn't accept it as ID at all !!!

    Amusingly the next bar we came across was an Irish bar of some sort with a massive queue outside and bouncers telling everyone to get lost because no one else was coming in, until my friend who is Irish said "Are you boys from Kerry ?" And then correctly identified the tiny village one of them came from where upon we skipped the masssive queue got a free drink and had the manager actually kick some American tourists off their table so we could sit down. No requests for ID in that bar.

Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced -- even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it. -- John Keats