I went into my local grocery store / home goods store last week and purchased a 12-pack of beer. It’s a national chain that you would immediately recognize and could guess the name of instantly. You’d probably hit it right in the bullseye on your first guess. I’m not going to call them out by name, however, as this blog is not a rant against the retailer, but rather a rant against the average American willingly giving away their rights and their privacy in the name of convenience.
The cashier at this national chain asked me for my ID in order to complete the transaction. I was pleasantly surprised; with my gray hair and wrinkles around my eyes, it’s obvious I am of age (heck – I’m over 40!), but it still feels really good to be carded.
The cashier did not look at my date of birth on the license. She did not verify my picture. She took my license and tried to swipe it in a card reader. I immediately stopped her and said “You don’t have permission to scan my license.”
She was flabbergasted and did not know what to do. She protested, “But I have to scan it to sell you the alcohol.”
I replied, “You can look at it and verify my age. You don’t need to scan it.”
She went to scan the license again and I had to say, again, “You don’t have my permission to scan my license. Get your manager.”
Before she could get her manager, however, my wife, embarrassed at the scene I was making, handed over her driver’s license and allowed it to be scanned. While I wish my wife hadn’t felt the need to “smooth” the situation over by doing exactly what I was protesting against, my point is still valid.
When the cashier scanned my wife’s driver’s license, the computer had the opportunity to do more than just verify the legal age required for purchasing alcohol. A wealth of personally identifiable information (PII) was passed into the retailers computer system – without her knowledge or permission.
Her full name
Her date of birth
The issue date of the license
The renewal date of the license
Any driving restrictions (corrective lenses)
Any driving endorsements (safe driver / motorcycle)
Her license number
All of this information was given to the retailer; just to buy a 12-pack of beer. This is reprehensible. Why would you, or anyone, feel comfortable with this? This is very sensitive PII that only law enforcement should have access to when/if they pull you over. And yet we willingly give this info to a retailer in order to buy beer.
After doing a lot of internet research, this particular retailer is staying mum on whether or not they keep this information – which means they are of course keeping it. If they were not collecting it, a simple denial would be easy to make. The lack of a statement is damning.
So the corporate marketing machine now has the ability to tie my PII in with the credit card used to make a purchase. If I shop at this chain regularly, and use the same credit card, they now have a wealth of information on my every purchase and can tie it back to me, personally. My shopping habits are tied directly back to me as a person.
I would expect this if I shopped online as you have to give much of this PII in order to make an online purchase – but in the brick and mortar store? Never would I expect to provide such sensitive information.
How secure is my data in their system? Who has access to it? What do they use it for? Why do they need it? What is their data retention policy? When do they get rid of it? How can I get my data purged if I so desire?
Most of us don’t even think about handing over our license to a retailer. It’s convenient and quick. But that convenience comes at a price – your privacy. With identify theft at an all-time high and more and more intrusions on our privacy, we need to be vigilant in protecting our personal information.
It is your obligation to protect yourself and your privacy. Lack of vigilance is what leads to retail policies where they won’t sell you alcohol unless you provide when with all of your PII. If enough of us said “that’s not good enough” they would stop.
Florida Concealed Weapons Permit
Me? I have a surefire way of preventing I get my PII stored when I buy alcohol at this retailer. I don’t give them my driver’s license. I give them my Florida Concealed Weapons Permit. It is a valid state ID, and it does not have a bar code or magnetic strip on it. The cashier can only visually verify my information.
I urge you to do the same – use a valid ID they cannot electronically scan, or go somewhere else to buy your alcohol. Don’t willingly give up your personal information.