Good Question: What happens when they scan my ID?

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Let’s answer a good question about your privacy when your ID gets scanned.

This is something that’s crossed a lot of minds when people buy alcohol, cigarettes, and even some over-the-counter medication. You’re asked to not only show your ID but your license gets scanned.

Gina recently sent me this message: “What information is being gathered stored or shared when my driver’s license is scanned to buy beer? My husband’s 59 and this recently happened 2x’s now and was told it’s new store policy Mobil and Kwik Fill. (I’m) seriously worried about privacy.”

The quick answer to the first part of that. Essentially, these scanners see what we see with our eyes, name, address, and birthdate. But it’s in a different way, through a machine by reading the barcode.

These machines are common and are mainly to catch fakes, to make sure you are who you say you are. Stores will tell you they aren’t storing any of your information. That’s a good thing but buyer beware.

Privacy watchdog groups have told us before that they worry about what could happen through so-called data brokers, including some instances of IDs getting scanned and stored for a while, even when health care providers ask to scan your license.

What’s in place to protect you from this? Nothing really. Downstate Democratic State Senator Brad Hoylman has been pushing to change that since 2014.

The bill’s goal is: “to enact privacy protections to prevent the scanning of an individual’s New York State driver’s license or identification card by any entity except in certain specific circumstances, and to prevent the collection, dissemination, or sale of such information to any third party.”

They’ve been looking at this legislation for 8 years but it keeps getting stuck in committee session after session.

Senator Holyman tells me: “When the current Democratic majority took control of the State Senate in 2019, we had a massive backlog of legislation to make our way through. In the last session alone, thirty-four of my bills passed both houses and dozens more passed the Senate or moved through committee. Many of these bills had languished in committee for years under the former Republican majority. As that backlog continues to clear and we continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be able to devote more efforts to legislation like this that has not received due consideration by committee. I look forward to advancing this bill in 2023.”

If you have a good question that you want us to answer, email Brennan Somers at