By Jeff Bell, Times ColonistAugust 22, 2009
B.C. bars and nightclubs will be able to scan IDs again soon in their effort to keep out undesirable customers, after the privacy commissioner worked out a compromise with the company behind the technology.
Dozens of bars around the province, including nine in Victoria, have been scanning ID cards. But the practice was sidelined last month because of privacy concerns. The new plan sets limits on how much information can be collected and how long it’s kept.
Information scanned from each patron’s identification card will be restricted to name, photograph, date of birth and gender. Driver’s licence numbers and other details will no longer be recorded.
The new rules also stipulate that information gathered can be kept only for 24 hours. Previously, scanning machines used in Victoria were set up to keep data for a year.
"It’s a more restricted set of data elements now," B.C. privacy commissioner David Loukidelis said yesterday. "And when it comes to the non-troublemakers, you’ve got this transitory working period of 24 hours only. You don’t, thereby, start to create profiles on everybody — like who goes to what bars how many times."
Bar owners and police have said ID scanning protects the public because they can identify and refuse entry to people who have been kicked out of a bar, caused a fight or have gang ties.
But Loukidelis said in July that forcing customers to give up personal information to get into a bar was illegal, based on a complaint five years ago from a Vancouver bar patron. He asked bar owners to come up with a compromise that protects privacy rights
"What we’ve identified here is a workable and accessible solution," Loukidelis said. "For my expectation, it’ll be a permanent solution."
Owen Cameron, president of TreoScope Technologies — the company behind the scanners — said some of the technical changes are already in place, and he expects scanning systems around B.C. to be back in use soon. "This obviously came from quite extensive discussion over the last 30 days, and it’s not like we waited for today to start the changes. We’re well on the way to make this happen, and we’ll get it out there as quickly as humanly possible."
Cameron said the adjusted system will still protect public safety. He said his company has more than 100 scanning units in place around the province. The units cost $4,700 to install.
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