Monday, April 30, 2007

Slip Slidin' Away: Restrict DL magnetic strip use for routine commerce

On this afternoon's House Law Enforcement Committee agenda sits a bad bill whose risk of unintended consequences is nearly as great as its likelihood to pass: SB 1354 by Carona, which would allow vendors to gather information from the magnetic strip on your driver license when you cash a check.

The same committee already recommended the companion bill, HB 320 by Buddy West, for the "local and uncontested" calendar, so on its face this bill looks like a slam dunk. As I wrote when I first saw the legislation:
This perhaps bothers me more than it might otherwise after recently learning about an Austin man, a confidential informant for the feds who ran 3 Austin convenience stores and was found to have made hundreds of small, fraudulent transactions at or after the point of sale while he was working as their snitch. Checking my ID to let you see if the picture and the signature match is one thing. Scanning it into a computer means you've gathered that information electronically, can store it, and can use it for whatever you want.

I'm not sure I'm okay with that - banks doing it are one thing, but a convenience store requiring it starts to make me nervous.
At a minimum, I wish the House would add restrictions on use of this information similar to those described here in Sen. Harris' SB 307. That legislation allows use of the driver license swipe for limited purposes, with the caveat:
Information accessed under this section may not be sold or otherwise disseminated to a third party for any purpose,including any marketing, advertising, or promotional activities.
There's nothing like that restriction in the Carona/West legislation the Law Enforcement Committee will hear today, so if passed vendors can use that data for whatever they want. Add that information to the account number on the check and the risk of identity fraud increases. I don't think legislators have fully considered potential unintended consequences from removing longtime restrictions on using these data.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Might not this bill effectively make the Texas authorities who put the information onto the license strip in violation of 18 U.S.C. Sec. 2721?