Club ID scans not 'reasonable,' says Alberta privacy commissioner
Ruling could set precedent for all bars, nightclubs in the province
Alberta's privacy commissioner has ordered a Calgary nightclub to stop scanning patrons' driver's licences, disputing the bar owner's stance that the practice curbs violent behaviour.
Nyall Engfield filed a complaint to the office in August 2005 after his driver's licence was scanned before he could enter the Tantra Nightclub at 3rd Street and 10th Avenue S.W. He claimed his personal information was collected without his permission.
Tantra and its parent company, Penny Lane Entertainment Group, argued the scanning system was for their customers' safety and discouraged troublemakers from entering.
In a ruling released Wednesday, Frank Work, Alberta's information and privacy commissioner wrote: "The organization did not provide any evidence to establish that collecting the complainant's driver's licence information, or that of other patrons, is in any way a deterrent to violent behaviour."
Work ordered Tantra to cease scanning licences because "it has no reasonable purpose for doing so," and to destroy the information it's already collected from other patrons.
The Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission said it would examine the ruling and its "broader implications."
"I think it vindicates consumers' rights everywhere and it supports the need for privacy that we have in our society," Engfield said. "In this day of free-flowing information, I think it's important that we're able to control the amount of information that businesses have about us."
Tantra used the SecureClub system that shared patron information with other club owners.
Paul Vickers, who owns Tantra and other clubs, said data from his staff and the police department show crime and violence went down by 77 per cent in his businesses since they started using the ID scanners.
He said he hopes to appeal Wednesday's decision.
"I'm disappointed," he told CBC News. "It's something that I'm looking for the government as a regulatory body, and also as a partner in this, to assist me to achieve my goals, which is No. 1 to have a safe place for my patrons."
Vickers said if he loses his appeal, he plans to turn all of his bars into private clubs so that he can get people to fill out a membership and provide a copy of their driver's licence before they're allowed in.
The bar scan issue is also before B.C.'s Information and Privacy Commissioner, which is expected to deliver a ruling this summer.