Good Question: What happens when stores swipe your license?

October 30, 2018 06:44 AM

Some of you have concerns about your personal information.

You asked Pat Taney to investigate for this week's Good Question report.


This has to do with your driver's license, specifically when it's scanned at local stores.

Many stores scan your license when you make returns or buy items that require an age check, like alcohol and tobacco.

We can tell you the scan, which reads your license barcode,  captures everything that's already on the front of your driver's license: your name, address, and birth date.

But what do stores do with that information after it's swiped?

At Lisa's Liquor Barn in Penfield, the scanners are used mainly for out-of-state licenses and it's only to make sure a person is of age.

The policy at Lisa's is crystal clear.

"Our policy is we do not store that information. We scan a license, it checks the age, and gives us a thumbs up if the person is 21 and over," said store manager Leanne Reisenberger.

"We do not keep customers information stored."

Consumer watchdogs say that's a good policy and should ease customers' minds.

At other stores, there are concerns that are not happening.

"There are instances where our IDs are being scanned and stored for a very long time," said Pam Dixon with the World Privacy Forum, a non-profit public research group.

The good news:

"I have not personally found a list on a data brokering website where this information is being sold," said Dixon.  But she and other consumer advocates worry it could happen with scanners available everywhere, even on cell phone apps.

"There are instances where our IDs are being scanned and stored for a very long time- this includes health care providers asking for scans of IDs," Dixon said. "Looking at a drivers license to prevent medical forms of ID theft is great but storing that information is not so great and this is unregulated"

Currently, if a health care provider or store wants to keep your information, there are no laws forbidding it...yet.

New York State Senator Brad Hoylman presented a state bill to deal with this.

"My legislation would require businesses that use ID scanners to limit the information they collect only to what's necessary and dispose of that in a timely manner," Hoylman said.

It would also forbid businesses from selling your information to marketing firms.

That bill has been stuck in committee since 2014 and is still waiting to be passed.

In the meantime, Dixon says think twice before having your license swiped.

"Great to look, not so great to scan," she said.

Unless the business has a policy in place, like Lisa's liquor barn.

If you aren't sure about a store's policy, just ask. 

As for Hoylman's state bill proposal, he tells News10NBC he will try again to get it passed this legislative session which starts in January.

If you have a question you'd like Pat to answer, send him an email to


Pat Taney

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