Privacy intrusion of ID scanners at nightclubs has recently come under scrutiny. The Alberta Privacy Commission recommended that Paul Vickers, owner of Penny Lane Entertainment, stop his employees from scanning patrons' driver's licenses.
The Privacy Commission's non- binding recommendation stems from a complaint from then University of Calgary law student Nyall Engfield.
"In March of 2005 I went to Tantra and the bouncer checked my ID to see if I was of age, and let me in," explained Engfield. "Once inside, I was asked to produce my ID a second time, and it was passed under a device which I later found out was a scanner that took a digital picture of my license."
Engfield did not consent to the scanning, nor was there notice that his ID would be scanned.
"I wasn't happy since a driver's license contains a lot of sensitive information, like a picture and signature," he said.
Secureclub Corporation is the maker and supplier of the ID scanners found at Penny Lane establishments and the same technology is used in the Den. In conjunction with providing a safer and more enjoyable nightclub experience, the Secureclub website also touts the use of its system to provide "valuable traffic data for your marketing efforts."
The Privacy Commission ruled the process of scanning IDs retrieved more information than was needed for the purposes of a nightclub.
"Investigators found that the practice of scanning driver's licenses was against section 11 of the Personal Information Protection Act, Alberta's privacy legislation in force since January 2004," said Engfield, who is now a lawyer.
Engfield said investigators found the system did not address the problem of violence in clubs, since the club in question still needed to employ metal detectors, cameras and off-duty police.
"I don't think someone who is drunk and violent is thinking about whether or not their ID was scanned on entrance," said Engfield.
Vickers, in lieu of the commissions investigation, has chosen to continue using the scanners.
Penny Lane Entertainment and other establishments may ignore the recommendation of the Privacy Commission until the inquiry process is slated to end next year. The inquiry could culminate in a binding ban on ID scanners at licensed establishments.
The U of C SU implemented a Secureclub ID scanner after the Den reopened a few years ago.
"We wanted to tighten the belt on security at the Den," said SU Vice-President Operations and Finance Joel Lockwood, adding there is a strong correlation between reduction of violence and the introduction of the ID scanner at the Den.
Students waiting in line at the Den Sat., Nov. 19 didn't express deep concern about their IDs being scanned.
"[The ID scanner] is a necessary invasion of privacy to keep the bar safe," commented third year urban studies student David Mulholland.