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February 06, 2004

The High Tech Meat Market

I'll be scanning the barcode on the back of my driver's license sometime over the weekend--the SWIPE tookit will tell me what personal information is contained within it.

I found SWIPE via an article at Wired News, Great Taste, Less Privacy, about bars that have started scanning licenses in an effort to detect fake licenses and catch underage patrons. Which is all well and good, but there is a lot more information in the license barcode than just age. Once a card reader is combined with a database, then all sorts of correlations become possible.

In addition to fear of relentless marketing, there are concerns about stalking. A bar employee, for example, could create a list of all blond female patrons between the ages of 21 and 25 who weigh 120 pounds. The Driver's Privacy Protection Act of 1994 was passed to prevent states from selling driver's records, in part because people were outraged states were making money on the data. In addition, an obsessed stalker killed actress Rebecca Schaeffer a few years ago using an address obtained from public driving records.

Heck, combine the scan with a floor level scale, and not only would a bar employee create a list of all blond female patrons between the ages of 21 and 25 who weigh 120 pounds, he could track over time which ones are the most prone to weight gain.

Eventually some nightspot will cotton to the notion of, not only collecting personal information, but displaying to the crowd already assembled within, though probably with things like addresses taken out. Nightclubbers will enter a bar, scan their license or have it scanned, and voila! Their likeness, image, age and weight appear on screens placed around the room, then continue to pop up randomly through the night, until a exit swipe was recorded by the system.

Certainly some people will avoid these places like the plague, but for others, especially the young and good-looking, the sensation of being the focus for hundreds of eyes, even if for only a moment, will prove addictive, as will having dozens of total strangers know your name. The usual rationalizations will pop out--"That way my friends know I've arrived," "It's a great way to meet people,"--a thin covering of excuse to put the mind at rest. What will really be going on is the trading of personal information for something percieved as valuable by the participants--in this case, social connections.*

Hundreds of thousands of people hand away equivalent information to the grocery stores every day in return for a few cents off comestibles. How much more would they be willing to give away in return for attracting the interest of the opposite sex?

Now if I just had an investor or two.

*Euphemism for "the possibility of getting laid."

Posted by Bigwig at February 6, 2004 12:25 PM | TrackBack
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hmmmm. how about walking up to a bar that has a kiosk outside, and querying for median age, sex and weight of patrons inside? "Nothing but old fat people in here, let's go somewhere else."

Long line at a cool club? Query the ratio of men/women... "2 to 1, lets go somewhere else." "But wait, the women have had 4 times as much alcohol as the men... Oh. nevermind, it's the Bush twins again."

Maybe the stats are available on the internet looking for bars where the "social connection" is most likely to occur?

(sorry. Nerd entrepreneur here. going back to my cave now.)

Posted by: MojoMark at February 6, 2004 05:47 PM

Could Ngnat have already foreseen a possible exit strategy for this? By watching "Dora, Dora", she knows to invoke,"Swiper, no swiping!" At least her generation will be safe from the depredations set in motion by your relentless desire to rule the world, or at least get royalties from it and live like a king, only wear more comfortable clothing and be computer-savvy, etc.

Posted by: Rich at February 7, 2004 04:58 PM


US Military IDs now have the 2D barcode, as well as an IC.

Posted by: Fûz at February 7, 2004 11:53 PM
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