I went to a show recently, and the club had this device to check my ID. They swiped my driver's license, and my age and name were displayed. I told them I didn't want them to swipe my card; if they need to verify my age, then they can look at my license and do the math. What sort of info are they taking from swiping my card? Are they selling it to marketing groups? Are they keeping tabs on me and collecting data? What are my rights? I told the guy I didn't want to have my card swiped, and he said that I had no choice. I just don't trust the whole process.
-- Nick in the valley
San Diego's Privacy Rights Clearing House has looked into the issue of mag strips on California drivers' licenses. They're satisfied that the data strip mirrors the front of the license, with the exception of the photo. (Your Social Security number is not on the strip.) You get no info by swiping that you don't get by reading. But another purpose of swiping is to find counterfeit licenses. It's harder to fake the strip than it is to fake the front of the license. So if the front and back match, the club figures its butt is covered. They have no interest in having their license yanked by the ABC for selling booze to minors with phony IDs.
Theoretically, we're protected by California Civil Code Section 1798.90.1, which gives businesses the right to swipe but says they can't save or "use" the info except for identification purposes. The vast majority of businesses are going to comply. Too much is at risk for whatever pennies they'd earn for selling you out. You might have more to fear from the company that makes the swiping software, if they have access to the swiped data. But, all things considered, studies show we're much more vulnerable to identity thieves who steal paper from our mailboxes or trash cans. So we say, go to clubs, buy a shredder.