Risk
7/15/2008
08:34 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary
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Target's Swipe At Privacy, An Update

A representative from retailing company Target explained why they're scanning customers' driver's licenses, and exactly what information they are collecting.

A representative from retailing company Target explained why they're scanning customers' driver's licenses, and exactly what information they are collecting.Several weeks ago I dashed to my local Target store to get some groceries and a box of Nicorette gum. I was surprised when a Target cashier not only asked to see my driver's license, but proceeded to scan it through the reader in the cash register. Whoa!

The original post is available here. Essentially, I had assumed the clerk was going to view my date-of-birth to verify I was old enough to buy a nicotine cessation product. I then asked why my license had been scanned, and what information was collected. The clerk didn't know. However, Target's customer service responded and said my license was scanned to validate my age, but wouldn't answer what, if any, data was collected and what they planned to do with it.

Yesterday, I received an e-mail stating that they were following up on a voice mail they'd left. I must have missed the voice mail -- which is entirely possible considering how quirky Vonage seems to be at times.

Here's the note from Target PR:

I wanted to follow up on the voice mail I left for you on June 25 regarding your experience buying an age-restricted item at a local Target store. Thank you for your questions regarding the scan of your driver's license. You have made us aware of some potential opportunities for improving the store experience for our guests, and we appreciate your patience as we researched the matter.

If a guest approaches the checkout with an age-restricted item, cashiers are prompted to check ID and scan the guest's driver's license. When scanning an ID for this purpose, our systems only collect date of birth. No other personal information is captured. Scanning an ID provides a more accurate way to verify date of birth and creates a quick and efficient checkout experience for our guests.

Thank you again for contacting us regarding this matter.

So there you have it, nothing other than date-of-birth is collected. That's not a violation of privacy, really, since date-of-birth is public information.

However, I still won't be purchasing "age-restricted" items at Target. I'm not comfortable with my driver's license being used in this way. You can purchase cigarettes at nearly any gas station in the state of Minnesota without having to have your license "scanned." In fact, the last time I purchased alcohol for a house party at a friend's house, the state-run liquor store didn't scan my driver's license.

The only authorities I'll be allowing to scan my license in the future will be the Department of Motor Vehicles, and law enforcement. Period. I'm not taking the chance of trading privacy for expediency at checkout.

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