Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 24, 2018

Scans not allowed

By David Hotle

“I’m sorry, but I don’t let private businesses scan my driver’s license.”
The cashier suddenly looked up from the scan gun she was holding and glared at me. I was at a checkout line in a semi-local big box store trying to purchase a bottle of NyQuil. This non-narcotic cold medicine is not on any kind of watch list that I am aware of. In fact, I picked it up off a shelf.
“We need to scan your license in order to sell that to you,” the cashier said sharply.
“All right,” I said. “I’ll just get it somewhere else.”
The cashier’s reaction was not that of someone trying to salvage a sale, but of someone irate at having an uppity customer refuse the conditions that come with the privilege of buying at the store.
“We still need to scan your driver’s license,” was the somewhat rude response.
Again I refused, saying that the store had no reason to scan my license at that point. I walked off and put the bottle back on the shelf. I looked around to see if Ms. Congeniality had called security about my refusal to let her scan my license. Seeing none, I left the store.
I completely forgot about the incident until a few months later. For legal reasons, I’d better not give the name of the store. Let’s just say that it isn’t in Washington County and that about three months after that incident, in December 2013, the corporation that owned the store I was at was the victim of a data breach and the identities of about 110 million customers were compromised. I suspect many of those were from having driver’s licenses scanned in.
What I happen to know is the bar code on the back of driver’s licenses contains all the information on the front, including the photo. I really don’t know how those businesses use the information, and I don’t care to find out the hard way. If someone wants to verify my age (do I really look like I’m under 21?) they can read the birth date on the license without scanning it. Beyond that, I consider the scanning of driver’s licenses by private business to be nothing short of an invasion of privacy. I also consider it an open door to identity theft.
At this point, I have to say in all fairness that I don’t know if this is a push by law enforcement in some areas as a way of ensuring adult items (NyQuil?) are only sold to adults and said businesses are simply complying. I would think most people in law enforcement would know that having personal information like that on a database is very dangerous. One hack could compromise literally millions of identities.
In fact, one of the first things that most members of law enforcement in Washington County say is the best way to guard against identity theft is not to release private information. Another really good tip is to regularly check your credit history. Recently I have also invested in a document shredder. You can get these used for about $8, and they are a great way to keep dumpster divers from getting information on you.
With identity theft running amok, you really can’t be too careful. Of course, I also have a problem with the whole invasion-of-privacy thing. I do have to wonder what companies that require license scans do with that information. I’ve had employees tell me that it is just a check and is immediately erased from the computer. I just don’t believe that.
I have often said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I’m just hoping to give you something to think about the next time you run into someone with a scanning gun who won’t let you leave the store under any circumstances until they scan in your driver’s license.