by Lisa Banks

Privacy Commissioner warns of dangers in scanning IDs in pubs and clubs

May 06, 2010

Privacy Commissioner, Karen Curtis, is warning CIOs of pubs and clubs around Australia to be aware of privacy obligations to their patrons.

It is commonplace for pubs and clubs to request identification of patrons as they enter a venue, however Curtis has warned that patrons’ information could be divulged to a third party if proper security procedures are not adhered to.

“ID scanning, fingerprinting and iris scans are becoming increasingly common at pubs and clubs, and I am not convinced that all venues understand what their privacy obligations are when using these technologies,” she said in a statement.

“The digitised information these technologies offer has the potential to be used or disclosed for many other purposes, such as direct marketing and the creation of databases, as well as the risk of facilitating identity fraud.”

The warning comes as Privacy Awareness Week draws to a close.

Some clubs include the relevant details about privacy on their websites. The Wenty Leagues club in NSW is home to three bars and several restaurants. It was unavailable to comment on the issue, but the club specify its privacy policy on its website: “We protect personal information through the use of secure databases that can only be accessed by authorised individuals. As a matter of course, employees, including those able to access personal information, sign confidentiality agreements as a condition of their employment”.

Max Cowan, head of marketing at the Panthers Group, said that the club use traditional forms of security rather than scanning patrons’ ID.

“We don’t do it because it is not practical to use,” he said. “Even if someone’s licence is scanned, it still needs to be checked.”

The club’s procedure requires visitors to show their ID to club security and sign a guest book when they enter the premises.

The Privacy Commissioner urges both consumers and club owners to review newly-released guidance material if they are unsure of their rights and responsibilities with regards to scanning technology and privacy.