Posted by: Thruhike98 | July 1, 2008

Target Must Record My Organ Donor Status to Sell Me Wine?

privacy is dead by striatic

"privacy is dead" by striatic

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
Swipe, and

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.”



  1. Howdy from Oklahoma!

    Great post and some darn good questions, ThruHike. I’m absolutely fed up with these corporations thinking they can push us around over a case of beer or a bottle of wine. Who do they think they are? Yet, you found my post and it has generated a lot of interest. I think more people need to start refusing to hand it over to the cashier. It’s an outrage and a serious invasion of privacy. Neither you nor I have any sort of information exchanging agreement with this private corporation out of Minnesota. Your post and the others you’ve linked here have got me fired up. Red Dirt Report is going to do some further investigating. Keep up the good fight!

    • I understand your concern. However, I can respond from a small business perspective. My husband & I have owned a bar & grill for 28+ years and
      acquired a scanner several years ago. The purpose of which is not to acquire
      personal info for marketing or resale. It verifies that your name, age, and vital stats match what is actually printed on the front. It proves ‘due diligence’ on our part to validate patrons’ i.d.s. Due to the fantastic technology
      of computers today, forging the front of an i.d. or driver’s license is very common place. We also use the scan info if/when incidents happen to help the police identify perpetrators and/or victims. This information is deleted within a few months otherwise.

      • forging the barcode is fantastically easier than the front of the id. in my state the id is futuristic and looks very difficult to dup. i understand you prefer the diligence but i offend to the implication that it is needed and that i have to place trust in the promises you make with my data. in some ways the scanner encourages a lack of due diligence because it dehumanizes the process.

      • Heather,

        I hope I never have the misfortune of wandering into your store. You, and any other retailer, do not have my permission to capture any of my personal information – even if you have good intentions in mind. Why? It’s my personal information. I’ll always happily submit to an ID check (doesn’t happen much these days) but I’ll be damned if a retailer mistakes that for permission to store any of my information.

  2. @ Andrew W. Griffin: I agree! Somewhere the balance, the respect for individuals, was lost. I’ll keep an eye out on your site for any updates! Thanks for stopping by, and for the comment.

  3. Ola, Thruhike. Great info about Target, but it causes no surprises here, as I had a round w/ them after Christmas. The Missus gave me an electronic accessory from there that was just absolute junk. We had kept every single receipt from our holiday purchases, except that one. They refused to even talk to me about it, and with an enormous amount of attitude to boot. I told them that me nor my family would return, and we haven’t. A nearby Walmart carried the same item, and needless to say, I was allowed to upgrade without fuss. People can joke about Walmart…

  4. Ola Sutfun. They should know better than to mess with you – I’ve picked up on several savvy-consumer stories from you over the years. Good to hear from you!

  5. In many states the barcode has multiple layers, with one layer designed to inform whether the patron is of a certain age, like for purchasing alcohol, while a second (2-D) barcode can provide even more information. it is perfectly legal and acceptable to scan the ID to verify age. see this website for more info

  6. This happened to me last week while trying to buy an “M” rated video game (for which there is no law requiring an ID check). I refused to let them scan my ID and they wouldn’t sell me the game. I went to a different Target to see if it was a store policy or a company one, and the same thing happened. While I was discussing the many reasons why I wouldn’t let them scan my ID, my wife noticed the register screen said “Enter birth date” with fields for entering the info.

    The cashier said that wouldn’t work, but that she’d try it, and lo, my 36 year-old self was able to buy a video game.

    So … if you’re in Target and this happens, just ask them to enter your birthdate. And…hold onto your ID.

  7. @ bing: Thanks for the link. That’s interesting.
    As for the legality, I’m sure it’s legal. I’d just like to know that they’re going to do it before it happens, what they get, what they do with the information after they get it, etc., so I can make an informed decision.

    @ Shawn FitzGerald: I’m glad you posted this comment. I just read it on the Consumerist and was coming over here to link to it. This is good to know.

  8. Published on Thanks!

  9. Today, I purchased a game at Target, and the woman asked if she could ask my date of birth, and I semi-politely replied “No, you may not.” She smiled at me for a few seconds and I stood there thinking “I wasn’t being cute, the answer is no.”

    She finally said she had to have my date of birth. I told her “Don’t I look old enough to buy the game?” (I am in my mid 30s – to some, I may appear younger than that, but surely I look older than 18.) She said that “this key won’t work anymore” and that she had to enter a date. So I made up a date.

    The whole thing made me very unhappy.

    When I got out to the car, I checked the game and the rating was “10+”. Hindsight being 20/20, I should’ve told her I was under 13 and thus the government wouldn’t legally permit Target to collect my birthdate. LOL

  10. @ I_H8_Target_Now: I like your style. Good response! Thanks for the comment.

  11. I think you are reading way too much into this. Target Corporation is not actually collecting the information that is on your identification. The ID is scanned to keep track of exactly what ID is used to sell alcohol to any individual. Instead of ambiguity as to if an ID was faked, not eyeballed properly, or a human error made by a cashier, there is a digital record, that in the event of a police inquiry (for which a warrant would be needed) Target has an unequivocal answer as to the ID that was used to purchase said alcohol. The same thing is done for checks as well as certain medications and games.

    Target has no interest in recording, and nor does it record your donor status, hair color, or anything you believe could possibly violate your security. The employee was wrong to say that “it gets all of your information,” because that it not what it does, but it is easier to say that then to give the long explanation that I just gave you, especially when your process hundreds of transactions daily with customers who are in a hurry.

  12. @ Geoff: I certainly hope you are correct. However, I can’t get past the fact that these two sentences are mutually exclusive:

    1. “Target Corporation is not actually collecting the information that is on your identification.”


    2. a. “The ID is scanned to keep track of exactly what ID is used to sell alcohol…”,
    2. b. “there is a digital record, that in the event of a police inquiry…”

    I believe “collecting” (and storing) of information is required for “keeping track” and “a digital record.”

    It’s obviously collected. (My title referring to organ donor status was being sarcastic, but what about the more valuable information?)

    You seem to write as if you know the policy, and there is no question. Are you in a position to know the collection/retention practices of Target? If so, please email me directly. I really would like to know the answer.

    I don’t know either way. I’m just raising the question. In the absence of official information, one has to wonder what is collected, and how the information is stored and used.

    Whether Target keeps or purges the data, they could do a much better job of informing their customers of the collection, use, and protection of customer data. Otherwise, all I have to go on is what the Target employee told us. That information would prevent this conversation from ever occurring.

  13. A couple of comments on this topic ended up over here.

  14. 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.”

  15. I read this article when it first came out and when I was at Target the other day, it reminded me of it and a simple solution came to mind…Print “For Law Enforcement Use Only” on a mailing label and cover the barcode with the label.

    It’s simple and states clearly your preference to only allow law enforcement officials to scan your barcode. It might also prevent some of the ‘if we can’t scan, we aren’t selling ___ to you’ arguments from cashiers.

  16. @ Renegadetroll: That’s a great idea. The wording makes it better than just a piece of electrical tape – less pushback from store employees, and less likely to put you in a bad light with law enforcement if they ask for it.

  17. As a Target employee I feel compelled to pipe in. I’m not a Target crony. I was a lowly cashier and worked at the service desk for 3 years (i.e. still a cashier but I actually understand the return policies, etc.) but have a much better understanding of our policies and how our POS system works than most.

    Policy now requires all cashiers to physically handle ID for any item that requires an ID check for purchase, whether it be the obvious things like alcohol or nicotine patches or things like lighters, cold medicines or M-rated games. It’s mostly to protect the cashier and to reduce the risk in trying to guess a guest’s age. It may seem like a hassle, but with dram shop laws and whatnot, I’d hate to be a cashier that got duped by the rare person that’s carrying fake ID. Of course there are also secret shoppers and plain-clothes officers that may come in a make a purchase to ensure that cashiers are properly checking for ID.

    Neither cashier nor “management” can bypass the ID check. In the event the card was degaussed or the barcode doesn’t scan, they can enter your birthday as shown on your ID. If you refuse to let them touch/scan/swipe your card and they are following policy correctly, they will not allow the sale. The option to enter a birthday instead of scanning/swiping ID is basically a last resort. (If you are clearly of age to make your purchase, they may ask for just your birthdate however most just ask *everyone* for ID regardless of age because it’s easier that way. When training people, I would tell new cashiers to simply card everyone. Remember that most of these cashiers are kids. I’ve seen more than one poor girl cry because she was yelled at rather horribly by a customer who was angry and found it necessary to point out that she didn’t card another guest who appeared to be in their 80s. The cashier wasn’t even old enough to scan the alcohol herself–she simply said she’d have to call someone to do it for it and that they’d need to have ID–and I caught the tailwind of the yelling as I was on my way there to scan it and card the guest for her.) If someone sees another guest not being carded but are carded themselves, they tend to raise a stink and take it out on the cashier. Trying to determine some people’s age isn’t always easy, and some people are just plain bad at gauging those things. As a cashier, I can tell you I’ve had people get huffy for carding them and get huffy for not carding them. If you’re a cashier, you just can’t win. (Please be nice to your cashier! They’re just doing their job.)

    Anyway, I suppose what you really want to read here is this… When the guest’s driver’s license or ID is scanned during an ID check for purchase of a restricted item, it simply checks the birthdate and verifies the validity of the identification number as stored in the 2D code. (Also, I’ve found that for most states, the only things encoded in the code are your name, address, birthday and ID number, all as printed on the card. (If you’re curious, you can find programs that will decode them and just scan or take a photo of yours and run it through to see what your state uses.)

    The information itself isn’t recorded, just whether the ID was actually scanned/swiped or if the birthday was keyed manually. Again, since this is to help protect cashiers and the cashier or the customer can easily make up a birthday to enter (if they notice that a cashier is keying in a lot of birthdays, they’re going to get suspicious), this is another reason they’re going to want to scan your ID.

  18. K,

    I find your message peculiar. In the first part of your message, it sounds like you are someone who works inside a retail store at the point of sale. That type of employee would have absolutely no way of knowing what information is being stored when an ID is scanned.

    Unless you are a programmer, database analyst, or similar, who has current inside knowledge of Target’s point of sale software, you have absolutely no way of knowing what data is being stored when a card is swiped. This is exactly the point that we are objecting to – as customers, we have no way of knowing whether or not the data is stored.

    You are naive to assume you know what information is being retained.

  19. It’s not just Target scanning licenses. I tried to exchange an item (for an item of the same value, with the sales receipt) at The Limited, and was told they need either a license to scan or a Passport! No mention of the policy when I purchased the item, nor was it clearly posted.

    Other stores that follow this same policy are Nike, Brookstone, and Express. You need to check the return policy now, and boycott stores that require this invasion of privacy – to ‘keep track of returns’, according to the store manager.

  20. Same thing happened to me at Target in FL today – will NEVER buy a bottle of beer or wine there again and will reduce my purchases there as much as possible. This is NOT for verifying age, certainly not in my case. I am 50 and do NOT look like I am 20. Cashier asked to SEE my ID, not to SWIPE my card and STEAL my information. I was surprised/not paying attention so I let the person see my driver’s license – took it out of my hand and swiped it before I could react. This will NOT happen again. Need to file a complaint now wherever I can.

  21. Thanks guys, for your input.

    I appreciate your sharing of your experience, K. There is a lot of interesting info in your comment. The one thing I get hung up on is the idea that Target wants to limit its liability for selling alcohol to minors (a good goal), but does not record the information that’s scanned. This seems very difficult to believe. That liability for selling to minors is a big deal, so they need to cover their rear end. Why take the info, then discard it at the time of purchase? They would want to keep that information in case of a subpoena later.

    I think I_H8_Target_Now has a point that unless one has held a position working on the back-office or server-side functions of this system, one can not speak with certainty about how the data is kept or discarded. That’s why an official response from Target would be helpful.

    That’s disappointing PC, to hear the practice is becoming more wide-spread. Track everyone! 😦

    Please let us know, Tom, what you find out. My email to them from their website went unanswered. At least they may be getting the point that people find this over-reaching practice offensive.

  22. For the first time in my life, I became irate at a TARGET store.

    Gilbert, AZ April 7, 2009.

    I purchased a bottle of wine. Upon checkout, the clerk asked me to hand her my Drivers License (ID check). I am 49 years old, I don’t look 21. I look 49.

    The clerk did not read my license. She swiped it in a new card reader on her register.

    I promptly asked her what she had just done. She said, “I am verifying your age.” I said, “you can read my license – my birth date is printed on it. Why did you scan my license?”

    She turned icy cold, ignored me and said “thank you for shopping at target.”

    I was outraged.. I demanded to know why they scanned my license.. I then realized they just scanned my debit card and drivers license… I just gave target everything about my to give to BIG BROTHER.. but big brother already has this info..

    Except now I know.. they are tracking our behavior.. if we purchase guns, ammo, tobacco, alcohol, etc.. we go onto the “watch list”. Talk about Darwinian..

    Warn everyone that stores like TARGET are now agents of the government, tracking us and invading our privacy.

  23. I haven’t seen any responsed on this site in a while, but this just happened at my super target recently and also at my mom and pop store in my neighborhood. I have since not shopped at either. I for one, have had my identity stolen and will not go through that again. It is very disturbing that we have a privacy act , but yet we are having to give everyone all our information just to buy beer. I would be thrilled if I looked 21, but I sadly, do not!

  24. This is an example of “mission creep.” They do need to check the ID, but they use this premise to not only check one’s age, but also to read and record more valuable information. I greatly dislike being lied to with the “the company is required to do this” line. No, they are not required to record all my information.

    I have not had my identity stolen (that I know of), but I have had my credit card number stolen. An individual used just the number, not the card itself, to steal about $2500 before the bank called with their suspicions. On another occasion, our card info was stolen from an online retailer and used fraudulently. So, I’m aware that things happen with “safely stored” information. I’d encourage all of us to do what you did and also tell the retailer why, so they can change what they are doing.

    Thanks for your comment, Sj.

  25. Can anyone say class action lawsuit for invasion of privacy/extortion of confidential information?

    I happen to use nicotine replacement products and have had similar issues with Target. Cashiers used to enter the fake birth date I gave them verbally. I believe the register software has changed recently because the cashiers now say they need my driver’s license or they can’t complete the sale. Since I’m almost 60 years old (and look it) I say, “Get the manager.” The first time, the “manager” (probably a department or shift supervisor) punched something in, and no birth date was required. The second time, the “manager” tried to give me the same line as the cashier and I told him it was illegal to demand personal and private information from me since I don’t look under 30 (the law in California) and in fact look almost 3 times as old as the required 21. I then stared at his name tag, and asked for him to put his refusal to complete the transaction in writing. (He asked if I wanted the refusal to be typed; I don’t know why, but holographic is way better in a court of law; maybe he wanted to leave or speak to his superior.) I then said, “I can give you a birth date” because he was obviously looking for a way out. I gave him a birth date (not mine) and the transaction was completed.

    I wish an attorney would chime in. I believe Target has a right to ask but not demand DOB. I don’t think they have the right to scan your DL.

    I don’t want my name and dob sitting in Target’s data base.

    Next time, I’ll pay cash and let them see my dob on my dl but maintain possession of it, and see what happens.

  26. Just wanted to chime in. Today I went to my local Target and picked up Dead Space (a PS3 game) on clearance for $20. I’d been wanting it for a while, so I grabbed it and ran for the register. When I got there, the cashier insisted on seeing my driver’s license. I showed it to her, but she insisted I take it out of my wallet. My license has been in my wallet for 5 years, and I’ve never taken it out – not even when buying liquor. It’s kind of become one with the plastic sleeve. She grabbed my wallet and tied to force the license out, but it wouldn’t budge. When I objected, she told me this wasn’t just Target policy, it was the law.

    For the record, I’m 41 years old. I’m told I look younger, but not under 19 younger. My hair is going white. I have wrinkles. I’m obviously middle aged.

    Anyway, I grabbed my wallet back, told her to forget it and left. I won’t be back.

    I’ve checked the Target website for corporate contact info but not found anything. Does anyone have an address that can be used to complain?

  27. I like the idea of “for law enforcement use only”, but even better would be to use a photo ID that doesn’t have a bar code or mag strip. Degaussing the mag strip is nice, too.

    If all someone asks for is photo ID, I’ll give them an employee photo ID that has my face & name. If they insist on seeing something with my birthdate, I have a federal ID with my face, name & bday… and a couple other things, but no SSN, no address, etc.

    No purchase is worth putting up with the invasion of privacy & potential identity theft from giving away your PII. I’ve even been known to photoshop numbers on a copy of my SSN card when someone insists on having a copy. (It’s not a law, just company policy. My policy is not to give out sensitive info.)

  28. Here is my two cents on this argument. I have not read all the responses on this page so maybe someone else brought this point up. Why is Target allowed access to this information in the first place? If i owned the bodega on the corner could i install this cashier system in my store and start scanning away? I’m looking at this from the other side – did i ever agree to allow my license information to be released to target’s database? Did my state’s DMV make any money by selling this information to Target? Can i disable the sharing of this information from the DMV end of the short straw?

  29. K: I believe your handing the ID over to the cashier is all the permission they need. Yes, you could start scanning away if you want – bars are doing it now, as people enter. They are generating a heckuva mailing list.
    The DMV didn’t make any money on this, though. The data resides on your ID, so, anyone who obtains a reader that’s compatible with your card is able to import your information straight from your ID to their computer.
    Thanks for the comments.

  30. This is typical of something being used as “security” when it is not what it appears to be. It’s like target saying ‘we don’t trust our cashiers to be able to look at a picture and type in a number’. But if you hand them anything plastic with a barcode that scans then it’s cool. If all it takes is a reader to get the info then all it takes is a writer to create the info.
    What if my license expires? will they deny me my case of miller lite? I shop at target quite a bit so lately i have taken to using a sharpie on the barcode and also putting a small sticker in one corner so it can’t be scanned. But i can’t help but feeling like i am committing a felony by doing that.

  31. I like the idea, mentioned in a comment above, of putting a sticker over the barcode that says, “For Law Enforcement Use Only”.

  32. Same thing just happened to me – NOV 20 2009 – LANCASTER OHIO – TARGET STORE – While buying a video game for my early teenage son – I am 45+ years old and unfortunately look my age also – so when the cashier said she need to check my ID as the video game (call to duty modern warfare 2) said 17+ mature on it. I made a joke to my son that only I would be allowed to play the game when we got home.

    I rarely shop at target but my son had some Target gift cards given to him by friends for his birthday.

    With out thinking I handed the cashier my Drivers License – Thinking she was going to look at my birth date again I am obviously 45+ years old if you look at me and hand it back to me.


    Just like all the other stories here and else where on the internet I have found about this issue – the cashier turned around and swiped my Drivers License through her “computerized card reading /register” before I knew what was happening. And I am now sure that some where up in Minneapolis in Targets corporate headquarters, in some server now all of my PERSONAL information is now stored.

    I am certain I will now start receiving Target “JUNK MAIL” which I have never received before.

    As well Target will most likely SELL my PERSONAL INFORMATION – to other marketing firms.

    I complained at length to the store manager and could not believe they had so “nilly willy” “STOLEN” MY PERSONAL INFORMATION with out even asking me my permission to swipe my DL first.

    I asked the store manager for her full name address and DOB – she was unwilling to supply it to me – I asked her then why she thought she had the right to have mine and much more like my height and weight eye color DL number and god only knows what else my state puts into that bar code about me, etc also!

    I told her that I could not believe that I could not go into their store buy a product pay with a gift card and cash and leave “anonymously”

    That I had to supply them with my full legal name, my address, my age & DOB, height, hair color, weight, and my DL number and until just this past April 09 when my DL had to be renewed here in OHIO – they would have gotten my SS# also – but that was again just recently removed – Finally – by the state when I renewed my DL.


    I was given a number to call by the manager when I called it – I got some guy in New Delhi India! As I asked him where he was – I Hung up!







  33. I searched “Target scans id” and got your blog. Just wanted to chip in my 2-cents. Today at Target I said “I will show you my ID but I don’t want you to scan it.” The cashier had to get the team leader or assistant manager to over-ride the register, she proceeded to lecture me about how it is for my and everyone’s safety to scan my ID. And that’s not all, I still said no, and she over rode the register, here’s the clincher, she said “If I don’t like the stores policy, I don’t have to shop there..” ….unbelievable.

  34. Today in Target, they are scanning Driver Lic for Teen Rated games. The Casher said it was a LAW. There is no LAW to scan an ID for a TEEN rated Game for PS2.

  35. I live in Fla and until recently they (cashiers)used to able to overwrite the system but not anymore according to the team leader I spoke with yesterday. So I asked her what if a foreigner or a non scan able id comes in can you then sell them the merchandise and she said “yes” so there is a way and I will now make a point of bringing my foreign passport and buy wine every time just so they actually have to manually put in the dob. Not sure if it is the best idea as i would like to see Target age restricted items not sell at all but this is my approach from now on I think……

    I also called the store and spoke with the manager and asked for the confidencially agreement between the costumers and the store but she said it did not exist, I then asked if she could in writing proof to me that the data is not stored and she said no! Every1 keeps saying it is not saved or stored but there is absolutely no way of knowing unless you worked on their data system.

    Scary scary scary!!!!!

  36. This article was on the news (channel7) here in Miami:

    Ever bought anything and the clerk scanned or swiped your driver’s license thru their machine? Do you know what information they are getting about you and what they are doing with it? You are about to find out, and find out what you can do to stop them? Here is Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

    WSVN — John D’ambrosio’s wall tells you he and his family are sports fans.

    John D’ambrosio: I’m still a Red Wing fan, Detroit Lion fan, Dolphins and the Panthers.”

    We are now in the middle of hockey season so John is going to the Panther games and that’s where he noticed something.

    John D’ambrosio: “I ordered a beer, a beer and the girl asked me for my drivers license. I’m 64-years-old, so I didn’t. I was kind of surprised but she said its company policy.”

    Later, John went back to get another beer and they once again asked for his license.

    John D’ambrosio: “I said ‘Don’t slide it, here’s my card if you want to check my age.’ They said ‘No, we have to slide it,’ I said ‘No.'”

    John’s clearly doesn’t look like he is going thru puberty, and is obviously old enough to buy a beer, but he forgot about the barcode on his license being scanned until it happened a few days later at a discount store.

    John D’ambrosio: “The cashier asked my wife for her id which she gave, she slid it through the cash register.”

    John says after his wife’s ID was scanned, a receipt printed out her purchases and her name from her drivers license.

    John D’ambrosio: “And I thought to myself, what are they going to do with this? Why are they doing it? And what’s coming out? When they slide your drivers license, what information do they and what are they doing with it?”

    At this point, John became suspicious, after all if you look at your drivers license it has your name your address, your date of birth and of course your drivers license number, and if that’s is on the barcode a thief could have a field day with it.

    John D’ambrosio: “Privacy. What’s coming out? What are they going to do with it? Why do they need it?”

    In John’s eyes, it is an invasion of privacy and a risk an unnecessary risk.

    John D’ambrosio: “If it’s for an age thing, what do you need to swipe the card for? Just look at the date on the front. If you have people that can’t just look at the date, hire some new people.”

    John has lots of questions, so Howard? What does the state put on that barcode and does a business have a right to take it and electronically keep it?

    Howard Finkelstein: “The information on the barcode is the same that is on the front of your license, and yes, a business can store that information to analyze you and your purchases.”

    When we talked to the Division of Motor Vehicles they told us they don’t give the information to the business, the card holder does when they make a purchase. The concessions manager at the Bank Atlantic Center said they swipe the license to make sure the customer is old enough to buy alcohol, and they do not store the information.

    However, when we contacted other businesses they told us they store information to make sure customers aren’t buying items they have limits on like medications. Howard says they can store your private information, but they better not sell it.

    Howard Finkelstein: “If a business sells the information or distributes it for a survey or as a marketing tool it is a violation of federal law and they can be fined, and you do not have to allow someone to scan your drivers license you can refuse and of course they can then refuse to sell you the product.”

    John likes to protect his privacy and says he wont allow his license to be swiped anymore.

    John D’ambrosio: “Well then they have to hire people that know how to count. Don’t swipe my information just to make it easier for them.”

    Patrick Fraser: “Several states have made it illegal for a business to store the information from your license and Texas has made it illegal for a business to even swipe your license in Florida. They can swipe it and store it, but of course, you can say no, but you can’t to everyone except a police officer who scans it to make sure your license is valid.”

    Someone swiped your peace of mind? Feel they have no license to do that? Let us scan things. We don’t secretly store information but we do broadcast it.


  37. I found a bar-code generator online & made one to match the style that’s on my DL, but it said “for law enforcement use only” (in bar code). In the course of an (illegal) arrest (for which the city has paid me several thousand dollars), cops latched on that and tried to charge me with “altering or defacing a license”.

    Because the stop & arrest were both illegal, the DA refused to allow the ticket to proceed. Besides, covering the bar code doesn’t alter the data, just like putting hands over your face while playing peek-a-boo doesn’t alter your face.

    Another simple way not to have your license swiped is not to carry it. I leave mine in the car, since that’s the only place I need it. If some place really needs an ID, I have another gov’t issued photo ID (with my bday, but no bar code, no mag strip, no address).

  38. I found this blog entry via online search after finding my birthdate printer on a Meijer receipt. I am reviewing receipts in preparation for 2010 tax return. I was flabbergasted to find that a receipt from Meijer has the following printed at the bottom: BIRTHDATE: MM/DD/YY!

    A store customer service rep had no clue, but the store manager did: there was a wine purchase. And yes, my state’s driver’s license, which has a bar code on the back, was scanned by the checkout clerk (at the time, I didn’t realize the clerk was scanning my DL — I was busy with bagging my purchases. I remember handing my DL to the clerk, but guess I assumed that my DL was being visually checked. Somewhere along the line, the changeover from manually inspecting the DOB on the DL to scanning the DL has sneaked up on me/us all).

    I was given the name of the Regional Market Director by a corp cust service rep. He is supposed to contact me next week. You better believe I will followup and will use the information from this blog entry and comments to press my case that retailers have NO BUSINESS permanently storing ANY of my personal data just because I buy an age-restricted item. Checking to make sure I am of legal age, yes, but nothing beyond that.

    I’ll post an update . . .

    In light of the topic being discussed, does anyone else see the irony that in order to create a comment on this blog, an email address is required but am we are assured that it will not be published. Meaning, it is stored on some server somewhere . . .

  39. I just came from Target and purchased Air-In-A-Can (for blowing dust from computers) and they also asked for my ID and swiped it. The cashier said you must be over 18 to purchase aerosols so add that to the list of reasons to swipe. This is just crazy – there is no such thing as privacy.

  40. I had a similar experience as others, where my DL was scanned before I realized what was going on. I wish I could take that back…

    As an example, here’s a link to what’s in the Washington Driver’s License Barcode. Obviously, other states may vary.

    I’ve sent a message to Target outlining my dissatisfaction with their “policy”. I imagine it’ll fall on deaf ears.

    Here’s a link to a Target online “comment” page.

  41. The scanning of the barcode is a somewhat newer feature to ensure the ID is not fake as it is nearly impossible for fake ID producers to make a usable bar code. Don’t let one know it all employee who doesn’t really know, scare you…he works at Target for heavens sake, probably barely has a high school education.
    Every time I have tried to buy alcohol recently at any store, they scan my ID.

    • Furthermore, due to the way the registers are set up with the computer, the cashier cannot just look at your ID and proceed as they are set up to “lock up” or not move on until the ID has been scanned in. Also this helps to track people who are purchasing mass ammounts of medication, etc. at many stores for the production of meth and other drugs.

  42. Thanks for your comments EH. You have painted a good picture of what the situation is. They may program the register to not allow the transaction to proceed without an ID, and many stores may also be scanning IDs. The point of my post was to say that what “is” is not a good thing. I believe that it is not desirable for all of my information to be scanned and stored, along with my purchasing habits – when all I have to provide is proof I am over 21.

    I have to correct one thing – If a barcode can be read, it can be printed. For someone to know how to decode the barcode into useable information, they have to know what the combinations mean. If they know this, they can do the reverse, take information and turn it in to a barcode. A Google search yields many options for generating both old-school and 2D barcodes, as well as guides describing what information is contained in the different state IDs’ barcodes.

    • Creating the barcode is trivial. and it was never designed to be a ‘secure’ feature of the id. I just got a new license in VA and it has at least a dozen new security features on it. Swiping the id through a machine and handing it back is quite possibly the least secure thing you can do with it. It takes all of the science out of how the thing was created. Now i can take ANY card-like piece of ID looking whatever and create a photocopy of my dad’s barcode and put it on there and get drunk from target.

  43. from

    We’ve taken these comments very seriously, so thanks for taking the time to let us know about the Drivers License scanning at the
    Minnetonka Target store. I’m sorry the team member didn’t ask for your permission before scanning your license.We expect our team members to help you in a professional manner and I’ll be sure to share your concern with our Store Leadership team.

    With the scanning of the Identification card,Target complies with all local laws and regulations regarding minimum age and identification requirements. We customize our in-store training and technology to closely conform to state and local liquor laws, particularly those involving preventing sales to minors. If a guest approaches checkout with an age restricted-item, cashiers are prompted automatically to check ID and scan the guest’s driver’s license. Our store team members should ask for ID for all guests regardless of age or appearance. Scanning an ID provides a more accurate way to verify date of birth and creates a quick and efficient checkout experience for our guests.

    If a guest is buying alcohol and they are accompanied by a group of guests, Target only checks the ID of guest paying for the item. If multiple guests are paying all ID’s are checked. We’ll also like to assure you that when scanning an ID for this purpose, our systems only collect date of birth. No other personal information is captured.

    Thanks for writing. We’ll keep working to make your shopping experience even better.


    Target Guest Relations
    (800) 440-0680

  44. How old do you have to be to buy rubber cement? I seriously got my license scanned to buy it, I’m 26 years old, it’s summer and I have visible tattoos. The clerk said that elementary school children huff it, but I certainly don’t look like an elementary school child, why in the world would they need to check AND scan my ID for rubber cement????!!!!!

  45. If you are worried about most of the information being scanned, then you should not step foot into a store. They have cameras that can record the same information, mostly the visual of the physicality of yourself. Everything that you can physically read on the id is linked to the information on your id. If you are giving permission for someone to view your id, then it does not matter that they scan it. For all the information other than your physical being, can be found in a phone book, facebook, or other type of online media. All they are doing, is scanning for a real birthdate because if the cashier believes you to be of a different age, people will and have complained that they are discriminating against age.

    • I think we see this issue totally differently. A camera recording my image is very different from recording my full name, date of birth, license number, address, etc – and tying that to the things I choose to buy. This is not captured by a camera. This is also not something I broadcast on Facebook or even put in the phone book. If I let one person read my ID, that is totally different from letting a corporation record all the information on my ID. If they scan it, I no longer know who sees it, how many people see it, how secure the data is, where it is, what they are tracking, what they are selling, to whom they are selling my information (personal identifying info and/or buying habits). These things are completely different from one person reading the year of my birth and handing my ID card back. Checking my age does not require electronically recording all of this data. Your personal information is not something any company is entitled to just because they can grab it.

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