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Limiting Collection of Driver’s Licence Information

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Is there anything more annoying that 100 people ahead of you in line when you are trying to purchase that perfect holiday gift? Well what about while you are in the midst of your harried purchase, being asked to pull out your driver’s licence so the retailer can record the number? Not only can this be annoying, but it might also be a violation of your personal privacy.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner and the Information and Privacy Commissioners of Alberta and British Columbia recently announced the release of a guide for retailers who make it a practice to collect driver’s licence information and numbers. This guide is meant to help these retailers better protect the privacy of their customers.

In general, privacy legislation (such as the federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, PIPEDA, and Alberta’s and British Columbia’s respective Personal Information Protection Acts) requires an organization to collect, use or disclose personal information for appropriate and reasonable purposes, to limit collection to what is necessary to meet their purposes, and to make sure this information is properly safeguarded.

In practice, retailers often record or photocopy a driver’s licence for a number of purposes, such as to verify an individual’s identity. However, this may be accomplished in a less privacy intrusive manner, such as examining the driver’s licence to confirm information, or in some cases limiting collection to the name and address that appears on the card.

The guide indicates that a driver’s licence contains sensitive information. Recording, scanning or photocopying the card may result in the collection of information such as a photograph, height, physical descriptions and other information – far more detail than what the retailer needs to conduct their business.

There may be some cases where it is ok to record some of this information, for example the collection of limited personal information during a refund or exchange (PIPEDA Case Summary #361). However it may not be reasonable to record driver’s licence numbers for the return of products (Settled Case # 16).

You can always ask for an explanation as to why your driver’s licence information is being collected, especially if it is being photocopied. If you still have concerns whether this collection is appropriate, you can visit the OPC website, refer to this guide or contact the appropriate Privacy Commissioner’s Office for further information.

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