Barwatch calls for meeting with privacy czar over security ruling

By Andy Ivens, The Province July 26, 2009

The chairman of Vancouver’s controversial Barwatch program hopes there is a common-sense route through the thorny intersection of public safety and personal privacy.

John Teti wants to meet with B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner David Loukidelis, who last week ordered a halt to Barwatch’s current policies.

Loukidelis sided with a man who objected to having his driver’s licence scanned and picture taken in order to get into the Wild Coyote Bar and Grill in southwest Vancouver.

Loukidelis found B.C.’s Personal Information Protection Act “does not allow the organization complained about … to force its customers to give up their personal information, to the extent this is now being done, as a condition of being allowed into the bar.”

The privacy commissioner insisted that he was in favour of making the nightclubs safe, but thought the current system went too far.

“We’re looking forward to the opportunity to meet with the commissioner and resolve this,” Teti told The Province Sunday.

“The scanners are an integral part of our public safety campaign and we think there’s got to be some way to make it work. If there’s certain data that he is uncomfortable with, we can amend that,” Teti said.

“He never really said the scanners were illegal, he said that it’s certain data that were kept.”

Barwatch and the Vancouver Police Department have signed agreement that allows police officers to remove undesirable customers from their premises who are pointed out by staff.

Licence scanners began appearing about two years ago.

“Since then, we haven’t had an incident downtown, there haven’t been any shootings and hasn’t been any violence to speak of,” said Teti.

“The VPD isn’t spending the same amount of dollars policing the downtown entertainment district.”

The scanners have revived the club scene, Teti added.

“People who were hesitant to go to the bars have returned. Of course, you lose the dollars that the gangsters spend, which is huge money because they make huge money.”

Members of the Victoria Bar and Cabaret Association have stopped scanning driver’s licences since Friday in order to comply with Loukidelis’s ruling.

Teti said he doesn’t think the 32 Barwatch members in Vancouver have given up the practice.

Individuals are subject to a $10,000 fine and bars could be fined up to $100,000 for breaching the Personal Information Protection Act.
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