Concerns grow over the rise of compulsory ID scanning in pubs, clubs and venues

Concerns grow over the rise of compulsory ID scanning in venues

A growing number of Brixton venues are having stricter door policies enforced on them by the police and licensing authorities, with several now having to run full photo ID schemes.

These make it a condition of entry that customers provide full photo ID for digital scanning, and it’s something we’re becoming rather concerned about.


What is full photo ID?

Full photo ID means that you’ll have to take your passport or your driving licence out with when you go out, and then present it to the security at the venue.

The scanning machine at the club then digitally captures your photo and harvests your personal details via optical character recognition, and registers them on a database. Your photo may also be taken at the door on entry and stored on the same database.

Be also aware that most systems flash your age up on the screen in big letters, so that may cause embarrassment for some people.

Your details will then be cross-checked against multiple-data sets and kept on record (as far as we can see) indefinitely. The Metropolitan Police can also ask for weekly reports compiled from customer scans to be made available at their request.

Note that venues in the same area may be running different scanning systems, so in one night you may end up with your personal data being uploaded on to multiple databases.

This rather troubling video shows off just how powerful these machines are and the incredible amount of personal info that they can harvest and cross-check.


Bans may be extended across multiple venues without appeal

If you are subsequently banned from a venue, the details are forwarded to the police who can  – at their discretion – then share those details with other venues in the area.

We’re not entirely sure how far this information will be propagated, but one concern is that if a venue’s security bans someone unfairly, they may then find themselves banned without appeal across a large number of venues – possibly an entire town.

Clubbers will know that it’s not unusual for a bouncer to take a dislike to someone or to throw out the wrong person by accident. These new machines effectively give a single bouncer the power to ban someone they don’t like from an entire town’s bars and clubs.

Emma Carr, deputy director of civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, commented:

Any information held on an individual that could lead to them to be refused service should be in the aftermath of police proceedings rather than speculation and gossip on one doorman’s say so. []

How safe is your data?

The Data Protection Act affords some protection but there seems to be a lot of grey areas with regards to club ID scans.

Given the fact that these machines can pick up more than enough data for identity theft, we find it rather troubling that all these ID scanning schemes are being run by the private sector, where data breaches are soaring.

There also seems to be very little information and guidance provided to clubs running ID scans, as a club owner posted on the urban75 forums:

I just phoned the police asking for some guidance regarding my business’ legal responsibilities regarding data collection.. as that is what we are doing and not only did they not seem to know what an ID scan system is they couldn’t provide me with any relevant information… Advice was to go to the police station and ask there…

Seems this one has totally slipped through the net. Furthermore I believe this whole scheme has been adopted as a knee-jerk reaction and that it has been sold to licencing authorities by playing on their desire for tighter controls.

Put all this against a background of growing data breaches – up 1,000 per cent in five years –  and we may have the perfect storm for serious privacy concerns.

Another concern is the potential abuse from, say, rogue security staff . If a bouncer took an unhealthy shine to a girl coming in to his bar, he’d have the entire stalker’s kit at his fingertips – her home address, phone number and other personal details. What protection is in place to protect customers?

Who’s checking the companies?

Looking at some of the unprofessional-looking websites of companies offering the scanning technology doesn’t exactly fill us with confidence either (the one pictured below can’t even spell the word ‘recognition’ while ID Vista has broken graphics on their home page).

Concerns grow over the rise of compulsory ID scanning in Brixton venues

Trying to find out exactly what happens to scanned data is proving a tricky task, but some of the questions we’d like answered are:

  • How secure are these systems?
  • How trustworthy are the companies running the scanning systems?
  • Who is behind these companies?
  • What protection will there be for stored data?
  • What happens if a company goes bust?
  • How can we be sure they’re not going to sell on our data in the future?

There’s an interesting discussion about the issues on urban75. One poster writes:

Although not directly affected as I hardly ever go out these days, the privacy implications of this practice are alarming. I have written to the Information Commissioner’s Office and asked if they are aware that the police are imposing these conditions and whether they have issued any good practice guidelines.

We’ll update this story if we get more feedback about the ID scanning, but in the meantime we’d love to hear your feedbackand experiences.

What do you think of photo ID scanners?

A necessary evil? A breach of privacy?  ID cards by the back door? An unfair and costly restriction for venues?

Please add you comments in the box below, or join the lively discussion on our sister site, urban75.