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Behind-the-Wheel

Data privacy and your driver's licence

Data on your driver licence

Data privacy is something we all need to be concerned about today.

Did you ever think about what might be contained in that magnetic stripe on the back of your driver's licence? Here's a story from the DriveSmartBC inbox:

"I just had the magnetic stripe on the back side of my driver's licence scanned by a clerk at a business before I could stop her. She asked for photo ID and I understood she wanted to verify my identity (for an $8 return item). She said the reason for the scan was that the business likes to keep track of who is using their gift cards.

I have no problem with ID verification, but I am furious this chain's business model seems to include the casual theft of all the personal data that could be contained in the magnetic stripe on the back side of our driver's licences.

There is absolutely no reason it needs bio-metric data or anything beyond my photo and name."

Can you please tell me what data is stored on the magnetic stripe on the back of the card, and whether it is all available to any device that can scan the magnetic stripe?

There are three sources of data on the back of your driver's licence, a magnetic stripe and two kinds of bar codes. They contain at least the following information:

• Driver's licence number, class and restrictions

• Full name

• Complete address

• Birthdate

• Height, weight, hair and eye colour

The business has no right to this information unless you choose to give it to them voluntarily. Even then, the collection, storage and use of the data may be regulated by our government.

The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner is responsible to investigate and resolve most privacy complaints in B.C.

That would be the best place to start if you feel that you have been the subject of a data privacy breach.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



More Behind the Wheel articles

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About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

To comment, please email

To learn more, visit DriveSmartBC



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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