My wife and I were in a Target store this weekend, picking up some random items on our shopping list. We saw some good wine at a good price and decided to buy that as well. When we went to the check-out lane, the cashier said, “May I see your ID?”
All that seemed perfectly normal to us. But then the craziness ensued…
My wife showed the cashier her license, which was behind a clear window in her wallet. He said, “No, please hand it to me.” We both assumed he just wanted a closer look. Once he had it, he immediately picked up a barcode scanner and scanned the back of her drivers license. I asked him what that was all about, as I had never seen anyone do that before. Almost bragging that Target now knows, for example, exactly where we live, he explained that the scan “gets all the information off of the license.”
“All the information off of the license”!?!?!? Wait a second! To determine whether they can legally sell me alcohol, does Target need to know, and keep, and possibly sell, all of the following information:
- my full name,
- my address,
- my county of residence,
- my height,
- my weight,
- my eye color,
- my sex,
- whether I need corrective lenses,
- whether I can drive a car,
- my drivers license number,
- the classes of vehicles I am licensed to drive,
- whether the courts have placed restrictions on my driving,
- my license expiration date,
- my organ donor status,
- a digital copy of my signature (some State IDs),
- a digital copy my fingerprints (some State IDs),
- and, my date of birth?
No. They do not. They need to know whether I am of legal age to purchase alcohol. (I’m sure they capture this information as a C.Y.A., to prove they checked the ID, but this is waaay more intrusive than is justifiable by the minimum-age requirement.)
Would the average person agree to fill out a form informing Target of his or her organ donor status before conducting a transaction? I don’t think so. Companies try all sorts of enticements to convince customers to fill out profiles with this type of personal information, but Target has it figured out – it is much easier to just take it from the customer. What a fantastic collection of personal identifying information they must be collecting!
We were not asked whether we would agree to provide Target with this information. We were not told that special “2D” barcode on the back of the license (which we always assumed was for law enforcement) would be scanned, that the data would be collected, why all of the data was needed, and with whom they plan to share these details. Most importantly, we were not informed how Target plans to protect this information.
As a rule, we don’t give out unnecessary information to anyone. We are uncomfortable with businesses’ track record when it comes to the use and protection of their customers’ personal information. We are also upset with the take-it-without-informing-us approach Target used to get this unneeded personal information. What would the Consumerist do in this situation?
update, July 3, 2008:
An email to Target about this received no response.
Apparently other folks are unhappy about this:
Big Brother, Beer And Scanning Your Driver’s License Number
Why Did Target Scan My Driver’s License?
Target’s (the retailer) Swipe At Privacy
Your Driver’s License Is A Gossip
‘Target’-ing My Driver’s License
The Game Politic
update, August 26, 2008:
This story is a good example of why I do not want corporations to collect excessive amounts of information, and why I want to know how they plan to use and protect what they collect.
From Slashdot’s summary:
“…Best Western hotel chain has lost the personal details of each and every guest who has stayed at any of its 1300 hotels in the past 12 months. This amounts to details on 8 million customers and includes information such as name, address, credit card details and employment details. The data even includes future booking details, causing speculation that homes could be targeted for burglary when it’s anticipated they will be unoccupied.”