Their purpose is to crack down on crimes of violence in pubs and clubs. But according to the Privacy Commissioner, an increasing number of complaints have been made to his office about the use of ID scanners in licensed venues. We look at what the issues are with ID scanners and whether your personal information is safe to hand over.

By Graham Doessel, Founder and CEO of MyCRA Credit Rating Repairs and

It’s Friday night, you’re heading out to meet a group of friends in a nightclub. You head to the door, and are asked to hand over your ID to be scanned in to the venue’s ID scanner. Do you do it? Do you ask what’s happening with that information? Or do you merely let them whisk it through – knowing you’re not one of the troublemakers they’re looking for, and happily meet your friends in the club?

Most young people would just hand over their ID, and this technology is being used in plenty of venues around Australia – with the intention of finding those holding fake ID cards, or those patrons who have been ‘banned’ or ‘flagged’ as unwanted.

But many are calling for action over the use of identity scanners, because of the increase in risk of identity crime.

Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim says there are a number of issues and risks associated with using ID scanning for this purpose.

“If organisations are going to require to collect that information for reasons like that, it needs to be very clear at the point of entry that people will be asked for that information,” he told ABC’s World Today yesterday.

“And people need to be told what will happen to that information once they hand it over. How is it going to be kept? Is it going to be kept securely? Is it going to be kept for a limited period of time, and who else may get access to it?

“People have the right to know these things.”

Mr Pilgrim says the use of ID scanners at pubs and clubs is increasing the risk of identity crime.

“The more and more we’re being asked for information, the more and more it’s being stored in databases,” he said.

“It leads to almost a honey pot sort of situation, where people who have malicious intent-criminal groups, for example, can see value in breaking into those systems.”

The Privacy has been given new powers of penalty for businesses which breach privacy regulations, in the Privacy Amendments (Enhancing Privacy Protection) Bill 2012, which is currently before the Senate. This will include allowing him to penalise businesses which breach privacy regulations.

“I would hope that organisations take the responsible step of putting in place proper protections for people’s personal information,” he said.

“However, if there are serious and repeated breaches of the Act, I won’t hesitate to use the powers that I will have.”

However, Victoria’s acting privacy commissioner, Dr Anthony Bendall, estimated more than 90 per cent of Australian businesses were not covered by the regulations in the Privacy Act because they had an annual turnover of less than $3 million.

He says Privacy principles were unclear on businesses’ obligations if the information is compromised.

”If you do hold personal information and

[it is] breached in some way you’re not required to notify people that’s happened, and if it’s something like your licence there’s a good reason you should be telling them and to be taking steps to helping patrons protect themselves,” he told The Age on Sunday.

Here’s more from The Age story,ID scans raise privacy fears’:

ID scanner company Scannet gives venues the rights to their own databases, and allows them to share the photos – but not the licence details – of banned patrons with other venues.

Scannet director Joel Sheehan said it had 45 systems operating in Australia since it began selling them last year.

Mr Sheehan said machines were password protected, with patrons generally more willing to scan their licences at clubs and pubs now.

”Now people that aren’t troublemakers that want to go out and enjoy themselves are all for it,” he said. ”At the end of the day the system’s voluntary, they don’t have to have their ID scanned as a condition of entry but at the same time if somebody’s not going out to cause trouble they shouldn’t have any problems having their ID scanned.”

He said ID scanners had had a deterrent effect in clubs and pubs, as venue owners could pass on records to police of violent customers. He credited the machines with improving the safety of nightlife in Newcastle, where the company launched…

While the Scannet website says the machines can help venues ”forecasting future business”, Mr Sheehan said that it was up to venues to comply with the Privacy Act and avoid abusing customers’ details.

Australian Privacy Foundation board member Dr Katina Michael, said ID scanners were not effective in detecting fake IDs or deterring violent behaviour but put the majority of people at risk of identity fraud.

”When you’re talking about private entry to pubs and clubs … they may turn personal information into ones and zeroes at the back end and these stored identities in the future can be stolen … How do you reclaim your identity?”

Some important points have been made here.

1. When we are told identity crime is on the rise and is fast being used as part of the ‘repertoire’ of criminals around the world – why should people be parting with personal information unnecessarily? Especially when that information is a direct copy of an identifying document?

2. It’s not a matter of crime groups not having the capabilities to hack into these databases…but more that it is not worth it…yet.

3. If a data breach did occur, would those small businesses using the scanner even be required to be subjected to the big stick of the Privacy Commissioner?

So what could happen if someone misused your identity? Your name could be attached to criminal activities; fraudsters could request tax or Centrelink payments on your behalf, as well as taking out credit in your name.

If you have credit taken out in your name, you will often unknowingly incur debts with Creditors issuing defaults against your name on your credit file. People could be chasing you for credit you didn’t initiate, and if you apply for credit in your own right – you will be refused. This will continue for 5 years while you have bad credit.  You will be locked out of mainstream loans, credit cards and even mobile phone plans. So it’s important to protect your good name and prevent bad credit through fraud.

My advice? Think twice before you scan your ID in next time you’re clubbing. If it was me, I would say no, or go somewhere else :) Because you do have something to hide, and that’s your personal information.

For help recovering your good credit history following identity theft, contact MyCRA Credit Rating Repairs on 1300 667 218 or visit our main website