Questioning motives, safety of companies scanning license

Published 12:00 pm Friday, March 4, 2016

Some local Oxford convenience stores are now requiring customers purchasing tobacco products to consent to having the bar code on their driver’s license scanned in order to make the purchase.

I questioned the clerk at one such store about why this was now necessary, but more importantly, to find out how this sensitive personal information was being used. The clerk had no idea where this data was being stored or who had access to it, but did relate that his store had been caught selling tobacco to minors, and this new requirement for his store was one of the resulting consequences mandated by the authorities.

Email newsletter signup

What really alarmed me was the clerk’s comment that Walmart is now scanning licenses for all tobacco purchases as a matter of store policy, not as the result of any wrongdoing, seemingly to avoid the consequences of others already charged with selling to minors.

It seems obvious to me a great deal of my personal information will be gathered, documenting each instance I purchase tobacco and effectively creating my personal history of tobacco usage for the proud owner of all this data. This data, over time, constitutes my personal medical information, which is supposed to be protected under HIPPA laws.

I wonder if an entity like, say, an insurance company would be interested in acquiring this accumulated data on every person purchasing tobacco products, some not even tobacco users themselves.

Assume Walmart does institute this policy and other big box stores follow suit? I can only imagine the potential market value of this data, and not only for the insurance industry. Making the gathering of my personal data mandatory in order to purchase tobacco products is a blatant and unnecessary invasion of my privacy and I strongly object to it.

I will no longer purchase tobacco from establishments with this Orwellian policy and would urge anyone concerned about the privacy of their personal information to do the same. I hope the legal community will take notice and move to quickly put an end to this further erosion to our right to privacy.

Ernest Lowery