CTV Southwestern Ontario
Updated: Wed. Jan. 26 2011 7:08 PM ET
There are a number of factors involved in whether the use of ID scanners is above board, and when it breaks privacy laws.
While people give out personal information on a regular basis, like when filling out a contest ballot or placing an order online, there are some differences when it comes to the scanners.
And it comes down to whether you choose to go to places that you know use the scanners, and how the information is used by those businesses.
Margaret Ann Wilkinson is a law professor at the University of Western Ontario, she says much of it depends on what a business does with the information it collects.
"They can only use that information for the purposes for which it was collected," she says, "if they were using it for the purposes of making sure that people were of age, under the liquor licencing regulations, then they can't suddenly start using it to market invitations to special events."
A business must also prove it has good reason to collect and store the information.
Three years ago, the Calgary nightclub Tantra, was holding the personal information scanned for 30 days. They claimed it helped reduce crime by more than 70 per cent.
But Alberta's Privacy Commissioner disagreed with the practice.
Tantra Nightclub's Paul Vickers says "What they've done now is taken that all away from us. It is our right, our private property to protect, which is our number one concern, to protect public safety going into our venues."
Aside from being aware of whether or not your information is being collected, you should also consider when and how it is happening.
The federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act says "The identified purposes should be specified at or before the time of collection to the individual from whom the personal information is collected…orally or in writing."
At Molly Bloom's Irish Pub in London, Ont. they make the process very clear.
Keith O'Brien, manager at Molly Bloom's says, "We do legally have to have a note at the front door, explaining what we're doing and the process, and they're able to opt out of it. If they like they can choose not to have their ID scanned, but then we do deny you if we don't get your ID scanned."
Jeremy Yiu told CTV about a visit to a southwestern Ontario nightclub where his ID was scanned without his permission.
A hidden camera visit to the same location by CTV News couldn't find any obvious signs explaining the process, and security did not explain until after they were asked. Repeated requests for an interview were also turned down.
Wilkinson says if the ID scanners only read the information, but don't collect and store it, the business doesn't have to explain anything. It is essentially a machine taking on the role of security personnel.
But security at the nightclub told CTV the information was stored until the end of the night, which means they are violating privacy laws.
Wilkinson says "If it is going to a database, and they either deny or don't explain, then they are in violation of the requirements of the personal data protection legislation."
Coming up in part three: Find out what you should look for at a bar or nightclub that scans IDs and your rights under Canadian law.