The Alberta Privacy Commissioner's ruling hammer won out in a thunderous fight with the SecureBar ID-scanning program. Privacy Commissioner Frank Works ordered the Tantra nightclub to stop scanning patrons' driver licences on Wed., Feb 20. Work also ordered the club to destroy all the personal information it already stored.
Work explained that the Penny Lane Entertainment Group failed to provide any evidence that collecting driver's licence information prevents violent behaviour in bars. The ruling applies to the Tantra nightclub and its parent company, PLEG only.
The PLEG president Paul Vickers is appealing the ruling, citing the need for enhanced security for his patrons. If Vickers loses the appeal, he is planning on converting all of the PLEG's bars into private clubs, where people have to sign up for memberships and show their driver licences before being allowed in.
The University of Calgary Students' Union vice-president operations and finance Fraser Stuart explained the SU is interested in how the new ruling affects security at the Den, but Stuart added the SU needs to study the ruling more before making any decisions on keeping its SecureBar system or not.
"To be quite honest, we now need to sit down with the university administration, Campus Security and our legal representation, to find out how this affects the Den/Black Lounge," said Stuart. "Legal discussions would be to take a closer look at this ruling and its ramifications, if any, on our current way of doing business and ensuring safety."
Stuart explained that the Den and Black Lounge work differently compared to the PLEG, because the SU have to work in partnership with different parts of the university, such as administration, which holds the Den's liquor serving licence.
"We take the security and privacy issues that are being discussed very seriously," Stuart added.
Former U of C law student Nyall Engfield and, now an Andrews Robichaud law firm practicing patent lawyer is pleased with the ruling, calling it a victory for consumers' privacy rights.
"The privacy laws clearly set out the standard for businesses using our information and Tantra was in flagrant violation of that, so it was a good decision," said Engfield.
Engfield explained the PLEG could not convince the Privacy Commissioner that the SecureBar system is successful in protecting customers.
"The commissioner found that this was not the case, since the collection did nothing to keep patrons safer, which was the intended purpose," said Engfield.
Engfield questioned the safety of trusting private businesses with one's intimate information with bank fraud occurring at an unprecedented rate.
"Most of us would agree that allowing bar staff unfettered access to the names and addresses of patrons is a bad thing, particularly in light of the recent murder of a patron by a bouncer in New York," said Engfield. "Who is to say that unscrupulous bar staff do not print out the address of a patron that they have taken a liking to and follow them home?"
Engfield compared Vickers' plan to convert his bars into private clubs to the behaviour of Toronto clubs in reply to a smoking ban in Ontario.
"All the clubs in Toronto said that they would go private in order to provide a place for patrons to smoke and that did not really work," said he.
Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission communications director Marilyn Carlye-Helms, noted the matter is between the Privacy Commissioner, the complainant and the bar-owner for now, but the AGLC is monitoring the situation carefully.
"AGLC will take a closer look at the ruling and review it in terms of it broader implications," said Carlye-Helms. "AGLC is working on many fronts to make bars safer."