Ice Cold Beer and Red Hot Surveillance

by on May 9, 2006

Your Nanny State and your Big Brother are getting together for a drink – and the drink’s on Intelli-Check. Heineken USA has announced proudly that they are going to use Intelli-Check-equipped mobile scanners to verify the ages of drinkers at events where their products are sold.

Surely, this pleases and appeases groups like Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (but don’t hold your breath for these neo-prohibitionists to settle their war against drinking just because alcohol sellers are encouraging responsibility).

If MADD needed any encouragement to support automated age verification, they must have gotten it along with the corporate contribution that Intelli-Check sent along. Indeed, MADD and Intelli-Check are a team. The Intelli-Check Web site also touts the state laws that give affirmative defenses to merchants who use scanners to prove the age and identity of people purchasing alcohol and tobacco products.

So alcohol sellers are being corralled into electronic identity verification. Young drinkers are being corralled into it too, and being conditioned to carry and show identification as a matter of routine.

Thing is, this routine is the groundwork for the surveillance system that everyone should be concerned with. Particularly as identification is conducted by machine, the opportunities to record information about people expand. Of course, Intelli-Check promotes limits on the use of data that is collected via their scanners but, just as surely, the scanners are technically capable of collecting all data on a card. It’s a simple matter of changing policy to convert the system from age verification to comprehensive surveillance.

Our identification and credentialing systems are designed for the benefit of institutions and not individuals. As I argue in my forthcoming book, these systems should share only the information necessary to complete transactions. Need proof of age? You should be able to provide proof of age, not ID.

The technology already exists. The Clear card proves to the Transportation Security Administration that people are approved to use Registered Traveler lines at the Orlando airport, but it doesn’t identify travelers to the TSA. If the feds can handle that in the national security context, your local ABC should be able to handle it for booze control.

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