Some say ID scanners collect too much personal info.
John McDonald/the Gauntlet

Security versus privacy

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Den and Black Lounge patrons may find themselves not having their driver's licences scanned anymore.

Privacy Commissioner, Frank Works launched an investigation into these programs back in Jan. 2006, after complaints were filed against BarLink under the Personal Information Protection Act.

ID scanning databases were alleged to be an intrusive tool that gathers more personal information than what is necessary for bar security reasons. A patron's name, his/her address, birth date, driver's licence number and other information can be scanned and stored on a centralized database for up to four years. Students' Union vice president operations and finance Fraser Stuart explained that the SU and Campus Security find the SecureBar program very useful in protecting the Den and its patrons from dangers. But Stuart explained the SU is aware of the gravity of information theft and privacy concerns.

"The Students' Union will comply with [any new legislation] from the Privacy Commissioner," said Stuart.

Stuart remarked the SU and the Den management understands the threat of information theft and loss of privacy and is confident in measures set up to prevent any dangers, such as hiring professionals and encrypting data.

"From the door to the database, all information is encrypted, complying fully with the current legislation," said Stuart. "Our staff is [professionally] trained, understand the confidentiality and merely use it as a tool to keep the Den as fun and safe as it is."

Stuart explained the SU makes every effort to ensure all personal information remains private and confidential, in accordance with provincial and federal legislation to make sure information theft does not occur.

"This includes a limited number of employees being able to access such information, such as senior night management," he said. "If such an instance occurred, legal action would be taken in accordance to provincial laws."

Stuart was quick to note the Den does not share any personal information with other bars.

According to Campus Security director Lanny Fritz, the SecureBar program provided itself useful in flagging violent patrons and creating a safer environment on campus.

"Campus Security would be very disappointed if the ID Scanner was no longer available as a tool to prevent acts of violence on campus," said Fritz. "Without the aid of the ID Scanner, Campus Security would anticipate an incre- ase in alcohol-related incidents."

The SU's justification for SecureBar may not be enough, according to executive director of Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre Dr. Linda McKay-Panos.

"If the SU does not have a good enough reason for collecting and storing the information, the Privacy Commissioner will tell them to stop," said McKay-Panos. "Otherwise, [the Den/Black Lounge] can face up to a $100,000 fine if it breaches the Privacy Commissioner's order."

McKay-Panos questioned if there is a less intrusive way to keep peace at bars while balancing the right to privacy.

Nyall Engfield, an Andrews Robichaud practicing patent lawyer in Ottawa, agreed with McKay-Panos' conclusion.

As a former law student at the University of Calgary, Engfield filed a complaint with the Alberta Privacy Commissioner against the Tantra bar back in August '05 over the ID-scanning practice.

"In light of the privacy laws in Alberta, the Privacy Commissioner will require the bar to receive the patron's informed consent before scanning the licence," said Engfield.

Engfield stated there is a large fear of loss of privacy, but noted he'd also like to see info- rmation theft fears be addressed.

"Having all that info together in one place makes it easy for an unscrupulous employee or bar management to cause tremendous damage to peoples' bank accounts," said Engfield.

He also noted no serious violence problems at the Den occurred during his time as a law student at the U of C and is skeptical of the importance of SecureBar.

"It's strange they required only this system and not the more effective solutions of off-duty police officers and airport-style metal doctors," said Engfield.

Engfield noted bar security is still important and he favours a system that makes the bar a safer place, but noted SecureBar is not the right system.

"It only addresses the violence after the fact by identifying the wrongdoer. Well, video cameras do that very well already," said Engfield. "Wouldn't more bouncers be more effective to prevent that?"

Engfield had a suggestion for students who have concerns about controlling their own personal information: PIPA prevents bars from turning a student away if he/she does not give them information unrelated to selling alcohol.

"People should stand up for their right to privacy, and make businesses justify the use of their personal information," said Engfield.




"Without the aid of the ID Scanner, Campus Security would anticipate an increase in alcohol-related incidents."

was there a decrease while this program was enacted?

i guess we'll see a sudden influx in stabbings and random violence due to enhanced privacy for den patrons. i'm scared. everyone should be scared.

i hope this fear will make the den members only.

The former U of C law student; was he a bouncer during this time, or does he just nostalgically remember the Den as a safe, comfortable environment, during the three times he attended?

It is true that some measures only address those who have been flagged after the fact - it isn't possible to flag people before they've done something. There are other ways to prevent some forms of violence, such as pat-downs, which the Den does do, and having a fair number of bouncers on duty (upwards of ten on the busiest nights, compared to 2-5 in a downtown bar of comparable size). The scanner isn't intended to completely solve the problem, which is why the Den has other measures in place as well.

Being a staunch privacy rights supporter, I still am completely comfortable having my ID scanned, given the very limited breadth of information actually stored about me.

i don't know a single "staunch privacy rights supporter" who feels comfortable having the scan and photograph of their identification card held by a private interests. this is even worse considering example after example of companies (such as winners, cibc) unable to safe keep much more sensitive client information. a "staunch privacy rights supporter" wouldn't be daft enough to argue that a full address, photograph, and date of birth is "very limited".

It's interesting that no ones commented on the possibility of information theft. Maybe everyones are too worried about the possibility to share words?

Look like the situation is about to get more hot!

"Bar ID scans not 'reasonable', says Alberta privacy commissioner."

"Calgary club owner ordered to stop scanning patrons' drivers' licenses."

So yes, the Privacy Commissioner released his order today, to orders the Tantra club and its parent company, the Penny Lane Entertainment Group to stop ID scanning and destroy any information already collected. Paul Vickers have 50 days to appeal the order, and the ruling is binding only on Penny Lane.

But yes, there is a large chance this order may binds on the Den and Black Lounge. Who know? All I know is that the matter is going to be very interesting in the next few days.