B.C.’s Big Brother on Break
In the Great White North, one Vancouver, B.C., nightclub has been ordered to stop collecting information from scanned driver’s licenses and to destroy all data that has been obtained in this manner. The South Vancouver nightclub Wild Coyote had posted a sign at the entrance that stated, “Entering The Wild Coyote is considered permission to swipe your ID and take your picture. This is for security and identification purposes. Your information will not be shared or used for marketing purposes. Refusal to present proper ID may result in denied entry.” The province’s Information and Privacy Commissioner David Loukidelis ruled that the Personal Information and Privacy Act was violated because the venue could not force patrons to have their IDs scanned and photographs taken in order to enter the club. While the club must destroy all data and information, Loukidelis did not impose a cash penalty against the club, seemingly using this specific incident as a warning to nightclub and bar owners across British Columbia.
The practice of scanning club-goers IDs is widely used across the province, but things quickly changed after Loukidelis’ ruling: It came with a warning to all bar owners that violations of citizens’ privacy would not be tolerated and future violators could see fines as hefty as $100,000. The popularity of the locally produced EnterSafe computer system, which scans IDs and photographs patrons as they enter venues, had escalated in the last year as owners looked to use the photographic evidence to help curtail increasing violence in Vancouver’s fledgling nightclub scene. The system, which is used in more than 100 locations at a cost of $4,700 per venue, also tracks patrons who have been ejected from a venue, caused a fight or have gang ties. Bar owners and police alike have praised the results of the ID scanning program and software, saying it has drastically reduced violent incidents, especially those that involve weapons.
“We need to meet with the privacy commissioner and any other stakeholders and figure out how to get that component up and running again,” said Scott Gurney, spokesman for the Victoria Bar and Cabaret Association who pointed to downtown Vancouver as a prime example the system is working. “Those people don’t come down there anymore because they can’t get in and they’re not welcome,” he said. To his credit, Loukidelis isn’t turning a blind eye to the issues and has invited associations and organizations to work with his department to find a solution that works for all parties. Until then, venues are choosing for themselves whether they will continue to scan and photograph patrons or put the practice on hold.