Why Does Target Need ALL Of Your Driver's License Data To Sell You Wine?

Thruhike98 tried to buy some wine at Target a couple of weekends ago, and they were surprised at how invasive the ID check turned out to be:

My wife showed the cashier her license, which was behind a clear window in her wallet. He said, “No, please hand it to me.” We both assumed he just wanted a closer look. Once he had it, he immediately picked up a barcode scanner and scanned the back of her drivers license. I asked him what that was all about, as I had never seen anyone do that before. Almost bragging that Target now knows, for example, exactly where we live, he explained that the scan “gets all the information off of the license.”

Thruhike98 wants to know why Target needs all of this data, and so do we. As he points out in his blog post, it’s possible that by scanning the card they’re creating verifiable evidence that they performed the required ID check—but in the meantime, the customer has just inadvertently given up all of his license data to a faceless corporation. (One that won’t even respond to Thruhike98’s email asking them about the practice.)

We’d like to know whether Target retains all of the data they scan off the license, and if so, why?

“Target Must Record My Organ Donor Status to Sell Me Wine?” [Thruhike98]
(Illustration: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. statnut says:

    Same thing happened to me when I went to buy a M rated video game.

  2. JustThatGuy3 says:

    Scanning it also allows them to check the ID against an actual state database, to make sure that it’s legit, rather than a very good fake.

  3. madrigal says:

    a few bars i have been to does this.

  4. CajunGuy says:

    Well, I now know where NOT to buy my alcoholic beverages.

  5. philipbarrett says:

    In Texas the card reader is part of TABC regulations. No subterfuge on Target’s part.

  6. chiieddy says:

    This allows them to verify the validity of the license as mentioned above.

  7. trogam says:

    I worked at target for about 9 months, and every now and again we had to this. But we only had to this when the COMPUTER prompted us to. Chances are that cashier was on some sort of power trip. As to knowing where you live…yeah they never told us anything like that. So I’m betting this is on cashier who is just on a power trip. The fun part was scanning out of state cards! Wheee!
    @statnut: Policy at Target is to card anyone who looks under 40.

  8. desertdust says:

    Ran into this a couple months ago. Kid at a convenience store performed a hit and run on me. The store had scanned his drivers license. When the deputy asked about the scanned info they reported that the system only captures the birthdate and time of scan. No other identifiable data captured.

  9. thesabre says:

    Please show any proof that Target is actually recording any information from your license. What’s with all the excessive hyperbole around here lately? Parents and disabled children are going to starve because a cop told them to leave IHOP? Target is creating a database of all the information on your DL because they validate it against a DMV database? Lighten up, people.

    If you want to be mad because Target is validing DLs, then go right ahead. But these poster’s (and Consumerist in general) really need to quit it with the excessive exaggerations. Uh oh, I think I broke the comment code by speaking my mind. I guess I’ll get booted now.

  10. MercuryPDX says:

    @JustThatGuy3: Ditto with asking them to remove it from their wallet. How do I know if it’s a real license or a great color copy on card stock?

    In WA State if you do not physically handle the license, you did not check the ID. Do this in front of a state liquor auditor and you just got yourself, and your company, a nice fine.

  11. corkdork says:

    Full disclosure: I work in the retail wine industry, although not for Target.

    The likelihood is that they are verifying that the information on the front of the license is the same as the information on the barcode on the back — there’s plenty of fake DL’s out there that look real enough, and it’s possible to forge an earlier birthdate on a real license. However, I’m not aware of a fake DL yet that includes the barcoded information that a real DL has (both 1-d and 2-d barcode, and magstripe, at least in my state).

    The problem here is not with the consumer, and it’s not with Target, it’s with enforcement. It’s rare-to-nonexistent to hear of someone being arrested for buying alcohol underage. However, selling alcohol to someone underage is (in my state) a misdemeanor punishable by (IIRC) up to $5,000 in fines/court costs and up to 90 days in jail. Additionally, retailers who sell to minors can lose their liquor license (something that’s very expensive to get — depending on the state, they can be as valuable as $500,000, depending on how easy or hard it is to get a new one. Yes, there is a market for liquor licenses for sale in some states, as stores/restaurants close down and new ones open, they just transfer the license.).

  12. Anks329 says:

    @madrigal: A bunch of bars/lounges in nyc do this all the time

  13. mariospants says:

    considering how a driver’s license is only a permit to drive and in many states and provinces can be obtained without the need of a foundation document, using a driver’s license as identification is only about as useful as the paper it’s written on.

    Regardless, Target needs to identify its privacy policy before scanning these cards or they could be violating some serious laws. I assume that by handing over your card you’re giving concent, but it’s easy to argue one has no idea they’re about to scan in your personal details (rather than scrutinize your photo, check the birthdate carefully, etc.). Unless Target is scanning to verify that the license is legit – and records nothing – they’re running a fine line here.

  14. YeaYuh says:

    A few places I have been to are using them to verify the license is not a fake/age verification.

  15. The Stork says:

    Admittedly, “all” could mean “all the info we need that everyone else collects too, like Lic # and DOB. Not address and other crap.” To save them time from typing it in.

    Or it could mean “we take it all and send the information to Nigeria.” But we don’t know.

  16. MercuryPDX says:

    @thesabre: It doesn’t save the information, it only serves as a back-up/CYA to make sure that the cashier DID check the ID and that it IS a legit license.

  17. prag says:

    I suppose one could sticker-over the bar code to prevent a unexpected quick-scan. You could peel off the sticker if you wanted to allow the scan. I wonder how much information is actually included in the barcode?

  18. Agree with everyone as to why they scan it. It shows and proves they checked the ID. Once that is done, the “fault” lies with the person who passed the fake ID, not the person who took it. As to why they made you remove the card, it goes back to the police. Back in the day, people would take a licensee, and put stuff under the plastic but in front of the license, so it would change information, and look “good” from the outside, but if you looked at it w/o the plastic, alterations were obvious. Some people would put a picture under the plastic, so it looked like a license, and it wasn’t. Also, there were cases where people would hand over their wallet, then claim money was taken. When I was a cashier, I ALWAYS made people take their license out if I needed to handle it.

  19. trogam says:

    @statnut: That…and once again the computer actually says “Does this person look under 40” or something like, “Was this person born before such and such date.” Really…Target cashiers are just the middleman between the consumer and the computer system. Expect to see Target’s new “Robot Cashiers” to be rolled out across the country later this year, designed by Oprah!

  20. Yep as corkdork mentioned this is common place when a business wants to weed out fake IDs by making sure the data on the magnetic strip is valid and/or matches with the information printed on the ID.

  21. backbroken says:

    LOL. I guess Target can tell you the name, address, height, weight, and eye color of everyone who has ever bought wine.

    Just don’t try to make a return without a receipt because then they play the ‘we don’t have your data’ game.

  22. OminousG says:

    7/11 did this to me when I bought a beer there a few weeks ago.

  23. backbroken says:

    Maybe the problem isn’t so much with Target scanning the license as it is with them refusing to answer any questions about it or letting us know how they are using the information.

  24. msbask says:

    @thesabre: Please show proof that they’re not recording it. You have to admit that the possibility is there.

  25. eirrom says:

    Scanning the back of the drivers license is new to me. I knew the bar code on the back had info but I have never see anyone utilize it before.

    I too would have be freaked out by the request. I guess I would have said “keep the wine” and headed elsewhere. Is Target really the place that underage drinkers go to get booze? I guessing not. I always headed to the rundown c-store and found a clerk who didn’t care to card. Too much activity at Target.

  26. Jesse says:


    I doubt a state would give Target or any corporation access to their DMV databases. There’s too much of a privacy concern.

    I’ve seen Target scan driver’s licenses before for checks, but not alcohol. Maybe the cashier didn’t know what he/she was talking about and assumed they were the same system.

    The only application I could see for taking all the information would be for a record log to serve as an underaged selling defense.. Some states like Nebraska allows retailers to keep and record the ID information in a book and have the purchaser sign it affirming they are the person and the age listed. That way if that individual was not who they said they were and is caught for underaged purchasing, then that book is a defense against selling to a minor.

    However from the details given, assuming they are true, this did not happen. I think the consumer needs to find what was collected and what for from a more reliable source than the cashier.

  27. Jubilance22 says:

    I”ve bought wine at Target and the cashier never asked for my ID.

    I’m not comfortable with Target scanning an ID and keeping all of that information. Next thing you know, there will be a big news story about how Target “accidently” lost all the data from DL’s or how their servers got hacked and the data was stolen, and how no one even knew they were keeping it. I’ll pass and stick with my local neighborhood liquor store who looks at my ID and doesn’t try to record any data from it.

  28. bossco says:

    Maybe the purchaser looked young for the age listed. Or the license looked fake. When I use to bartend, I would from time to time, get a license that looked “wrong”. I would have loved a scanner or database to check, because my only option would have been to deny the customer a drink, and of course they would be furious and write Consumerists……

  29. Hanke says:

    @prag: If you do that, you can be denied purchase of controlled substances that require ID.

  30. Depending on what state your license was issued in, the bar code may contain less than you think. Here in Michigan, the barcode (and the magnetic strip) only have have the license ID number, date of birth, and the expiration date of the license.

    On the other hand, some states include full names and addresses in the machinable-readables. I recall reading years ago about bars in Massachusetts using magnetic strip readers to build customer mailings lists.

    So, hey, maybe Target just wanted to send him some coupons for wine!

  31. Landru says:

    Costco did this when I bought a membership.

  32. Nighthawke says:

    Same thing happened to me at a Walgreen’s while buying some of the REAL Sudafed, not the other crap.

  33. hoot550 says:

    I’m going to put my tinfoil hat on for a second… How long until this data, if it’s recorded, becomes very valuable to insurance companies, consumer reporting agencies, or some other yet to be discovered information broker? Almost all insurance applications have a check box about how often you drink, smoke, etc. How much would an alchol company be willing to pay to see what age ranges of people buy what type of alcohol.

    I know that a lot of people think it’s just to validate the information. And I’ll say that, in practice, that seems like a good idea on the surface. But I’d be willing to bet that the driver license information is recorded somewhere, so that if there is an audit or inspection, they can prove who/what ages bought alcohol.

    At some point, I’d be willing to bet this information is shared with someone other than Target. Most information we provide seems to happen this way. Whether it’s the registration card that ends up used for marketing or check writing history used for check verification. History shows us that nearly every piece of information we provide to some third party ends up somewhere else, in some form or another, used for something we never intended.

    Something to think about.

  34. Hanke says:

    @prag: Everything that’s on the front of the license, machine readable.

  35. kimberlyannbell says:

    I work at Target and we now have to ID every single person that buys any age restricted item, whether you were born in 1924 or 1984, you’re going to have your ID checked. There is no way to override the prompt. Too many stores got caught in TABC stings and it costs the company far too much money in fines, alcohol education classes, etc. However, there is an option (at least on our super new registers) to just key in the guest’s birthdate, scanning your driver’s license is not required.

  36. johnva says:

    @Git Em SteveDave is a poor substitute for LindsayJoy: The fault should lie with the person who presents a fake ID, regardless of what steps a store does or doesn’t take to verify it. It shouldn’t be their job to scrutinize identification beyond just looking at their number. As far as I’m concerned, they should be off the hook the moment anything fraudulent was presented. No need for invasive measures like this where data could easily be recorded (it may not be, but we have no way of knowing that).

    But then again I don’t think it’s that big of a deal if some underage people buy alcohol. So I’m probably biased.

  37. Wow, paranoia is so rampant!

    Every major bar I’ve been to swipes the magnetic section of my DL which doesn’t “save” the data but does pull the encoded info off of the license so that it can be verified against what’s printed on the card (this is in Texas, by the way).

    Sounds like CYA policy, nothing nefarious. If you’re looking at a low-line employee for knowing the “dark secrets” of a corporation, you give way too much credit to orientation processes… anywhere.

  38. mbz32190 says:

    I have seen this done in line at 7/11 too…cashier swipes it through the POS. I am guessing it just checks to make sure the information is on the magstripe and it isn’t a fake (although many better fakes also have encoded magstripes). I highly doubt it is connected to any sort of government database, but who knows what the stores do with this information.

  39. picardia says:

    @thesabre: Did you not notice the fact that the post is a question, and not a condemnation? That valid arguments for both sides are put forth? Or is anyone even daring to question a corporate policy anathema to you?

    What REALLY needs to stop around here is people flying off the handle at any suggestion that something, somewhere, might be going wrong. Because God knows everything is perfect, always, and anybody who questions that must be shouted down immediately.

  40. ideagirl says:

    Rite-Aid has been doing the same thing for a long time, even for cigarette/nicotine replacement purchases. Now they also do it for cold meds.

  41. @Evil J: I agree, I think the snarky comment made by the cashier was more to make themselves feel like they have some sort of power over the info.

  42. chrisjames says:

    There couldn’t be all that information in a bar code. It’s probably just registering the ID number for verification of validity, and, worst case, looking up the information in a public database. That’s something they could do by punching in the number manually. Though, you can see them doing it and stop them.

    I’d be more worried about the fact that this information is, in a sense, being sold to Target by the state without informing us. That would be the case whether they had to look it up or the bar code actually had things like your name and address encoded in it (which it wouldn’t).

    The customer has just inadvertently given up all of his license data to a nameless corporation.

    I think you mean faceless… or heartless.

  43. rewinditback says:

    isnt it illegal to collect information like that? that barcode simply verifies the ID is legit and that you DOB is actually after 1987 or whatever the 21 age year of birth is right now.

    People cant do math. people dont do their jobs. Just as mcdonalds has the little picture of a burger, this is their over simplified version.

  44. @MercuryPDX: Card stock? When I worked retail, I once had two teenage boys try to buy liquor using blurry photocopies on regular paper. (How blurry? I couldn’t even read the the false information!) When I called them on it, they tried to convince me “that’s what the new licenses look like.” Idiots.

    I crumpled up the fakes and kicked them out of the store. (As it turned out, I should have kept the fakes — A week later, my employer instituted a $20 bounty on confiscated false IDs. My timing is always off by that much.)

  45. @hoot550:
    Correct me if I’m wrong, but legally, aren’t corporations required to gain your permission to share personal information with a third party?

    Not saying it couldn’t be done, but as litigious as this country is, beyond the government, I’m 99% sure that unless they were opening themselves to litigation, Target would have to disclose/gain permission to share any data with a 3rd party organization.

    I like a good conspiracy theory as much as the next guy, but I think it’s funny that the Consumerist is spending its time worrying about IDs being scanned for beer and wine when it could be focusing on, oh, I don’t know… how T. Boone Pickens is defrauding the entire country. Just a thought.

  46. johnva says:

    @hoot550: Yes, this sort of thing is becoming a pervasive problem as more and more private organizations collect large aggregations of data about us. It’s so easy to retain all this information now that lots of companies are doing so and using it for purposes other than the original stated purpose (such as market research). I think it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing widespread use of this sort of data in insurance, lawsuits, divorce and child custody hearings, etc.

    I think at the very least we need strong data privacy and anti-data-retention laws. We might even need a new government regulatory agency with sweeping powers to audit and disclose to the public exactly what companies are doing with information they collect on us. Because otherwise privacy policies and such are just an empty promise that we can’t verify compliance with.

  47. MercuryPDX says:

    @msbask: They’re not recording it. Just look into the code driving the cash register (if target lets you). All it’s doing is comparing what it’s read from the barcode to the format and data a legitimate bar code has.

    At most, it additionally displays what it gets from the barcode on the screen so the cashier can compare it to what’s printed on the license.

    Just a read and compare. No write involved.

  48. hoot550 says:

    Just a follow up, I used this a while back and it worked for me. This will tell you what’s on the bar code on your license.


  49. samurailynn says:

    I think I’ve seen this at some grocery stores.

    On a side note, it’s amazing how easy it is to tell cashiers to do what you want them to. I once went to a restaurant and ordered a drink, but I only had my temporary license that does not have a picture, and in California, they take away your old license – it was right after I got married and changed my name. The waitress said it had to have a picture, and I said, “but this is my valid driver’s license” and she brought me a drink.

    I also bought some wine at Safeway when my husband didn’t have his wallet on him. When the cashier asked for his ID he said he’d forgotten his wallet and added “but I am over 21 if that helps”. I also added that he’s my husband… I don’t think that is supposed to make any difference, but she sold us the wine.

    I will note that I would not have argued with the people in either situation if they had said “that’s not good enough”. I know that they are the ones who are at risk if they sell alcohol to minors, so I would politely submit if they refused to sell it to me. Now, the one that really gets me is having to show ID when buying cold medicine… when did that happen?

  50. MrMold says:

    I work retail and the people most concerned with ID theft or BigGovmint are the ones with the elcrapo jobs and/or the IQs of turnips. Hate to tell you but .gov already has data on you. Used to toil in the fields of enforcement and if I wanted to I could dredge up copious amounts of info on you and all your little dogs too!

    Getting pissy with a clerk only reinforces your inherent racism (RTFT) and proves the ‘Mericans need to have better manners.

    Posts here have shown that businesses are no longer willing to tolerate shrinkage. When only one or two families in the county are theives, the losses are minimal. When every hillcretin steals, measures must be taken.

  51. johnva says:

    @chrisjames: That’s probably all they are doing with it, but we don’t know that for sure. Once it’s in their computer system, they could easily be storing it somewhere for any number of reasons. My guess is that they do retain is as a defense against legal charges. And if they do that, they might be tempted to use the information for other purposes as well.

  52. reznicek111 says:

    Last year I had two Target stores in the Chicago area scan my driver’s license when I purchased a generic version of Nyquil. I think there is a state law in Illinois, aimed at controlling crystal meth production, requiring stores to collect ID for anyone purchasing medications containing pseudoephedrine (which are now sold “behind the counter”) [www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov]

    However, the item I purchased was the “new formulation” type with phenylephrine – which is not regulated – hence, no legitimate reason to scan my ID. When I asked why the store needed this information if I was not buying a regulated product, I got the canned answer, “it’s store policy.”

  53. @rainmkr:
    Hey, I’ve been a cashier… I was when I was in high school for another big box retailer and a grocery store…

    It doesn’t take long to get bored, and you make shit up… sometimes just to see the looks on people’s faces.

    If the “blogosphere” had been around back then and I’d thought someone would come in and post it on a site like this, I’d totally have done it more often.

  54. aaronsb says:

    In Washington state, the 2d barcode format is PDF-417. There’s a couple different software packages out there that can read it, some even free. The data that the 2D barcode contains is the full textual information shown on the front of the license.

    I’m pretty sure the data density isn’t high enough for either a barcode or magstripe to hold the photo, but when licenses get rf enabled smart chips in them I’m sure that will change.

  55. cubejockey says:

    Retailer Target Branches Out Into Police Work
    Minneapolis Forensics Lab, Donations Help Law Enforcement Agencies

    By Sarah Bridges
    Special to The Washington Post
    Sunday, January 29, 2006; Page A01

    When arson investigators in Houston needed help restoring a damaged surveillance tape to identify suspects in a fatal fire, they turned first to local experts and then to NASA. With no luck there, investigators appealed to the owner of one of the most advanced crime labs in the country: Target Corp.

    Target experts fixed the tape and Houston authorities arrested their suspects, who were convicted. It was all in a day’s work for Target in its large and growing role as a high-tech partner to law enforcement agencies.


  56. rdldr1 says:

    Whats wrong with Target complying with alcohol laws? They are just verifying that the drivers license is REAL and not a fake.

  57. hoot550 says:

    @Evil J:

    I’m not sure how that works. I would think that if you gave them your license and allowed them to scan it, they would say you’ve given them “permission.”

    And there may be some policy that Target has that let you opt out, but you don’t really know how to go about doing that. I would guess that if you asked anyone in the store if it were shared, they’d say no.

    Or, conversely, their policy could say that by giving it to them, you’ve opted in. It just seems that everything any more is a gotcha game. I just choose not to play it. If I’m buying something that requires ID, and they want to scan it, I just say never mind. It’s a bit of a pain, but I can always say no.

    I’m not saying this is happening, something about it just seems wrong to me.

    I’ll agree that sometimes we argue about sometimes meaningless things, but at least at this site it’s not about what celebrity did what to who. :-)

  58. VikingP77 says:

    I’ve had them run my ID through a little machine like that in the liquor stores in Idaho.
    Can someone tell me though what the deal is with carding EVERYONE in the party at the store? When I grocery shop I live with my 20 year old sister and she is a part in picking out what we eat. I tried to buy a 12 pack of beer a couple of weeks ago from Winco and I followed someones advice on here a while back about saying you can see my ID the beer I AM BUYING IS FOR MY CONSUMPTION. The cashier simply put it away under the counter and said he did not feel comfortable selling it to me and he could lose his job. Well you know what Winco? It wasn’t like I was trying to hide my sister from you when I was buying it! So now she has to slink back to the car when I feel like purchasing wine or beer and its a MAJOR PAIN IN THE ASS!
    I think they are interpreting the law incorrectly and taking it into their own hands.

  59. @johnva:
    “And if they do that, they might be tempted to use the information for other purposes as well.”

    Disregarding that it’s completely unethical and likely illegal.

    I know the warrantless wiretaps have made everyone start thinking that they’re worth spying on, but unless they’re giving the data over to the government (which, why would they?), I think that it would open them up to legal action… it ruins any “good faith” with the consumer, and any data garnered would be somewhat “tainted” by its collection method.

    I only say this as a guy who just had to sign about 30 papers for a mortgage application, most of which were “Is it OK if we use this information to check up on you?” or “We’re not releasing this info to anyone, OK?”

  60. Orv says:

    I think the real blame here rests not with Target, but with how uptight our culture is about alcohol use. The war on drinking is just another facet of the War on Drugs. It’s not going to stop with ID checks. Here in WA they’re talking about setting up checkpoints where they’ll stop every car to make sure the driver isn’t drunk.

  61. midwestkel says:

    They do they very smae thing at the Speedway gas stations in Ohio when buying beer. I just told them not to scan it and then they just punch in the birthdate.

  62. chemman says:

    I don’t know about the specific state that this happened in, but I thought I rememebered reading about the regulations for that magnetic strip sometime ago when they implememented them. Here in NC I thought that they could only legally encode your DOB and license number on it, nothing more, just for this reason so that stores that want to use scanners to capture/verify the license wouldn’t need to deal with securing all that personal data.

  63. Orv says:

    @Evil J: Well, not to mention that if someone wants to spy on how much alcohol you’ve been consuming for some reason, the first place they’re going to go is your credit card receipts, not the ID check records of random stores.

  64. @hoot550:
    Most types of data-sharing, when collected like that, require signature verification that it’s OK to contact you for offers, distribute the information.

    Example: I was at a bar a few years back, and a Marlboro representative was rolling around with a backpack full of Zippos. He’d give you one if you’d let him scan your ID, collect the data from him, and allow Marlboro to send you offers (coupons, ads, etc). The other option allowed for Marlboro to share your info with others.

    I opted for A (and gotten nothing but coupons that I pass off to my dad/IRL race tickets), and not B. No junk email influx.

    I get what you’re saying, just think that people are too ready to be paranoid about this type of thing… which is good to an extent, so long as they think about it first.

  65. kyle4 says:

    What are you supposed to do if you don’t have a license? There are people out there who are 20 and up who take the bus or live near where they have to go to work/school. What do they see then?

  66. AgentTuttle says:

    It’s worth mentioning that the terrorist watch list now has over 1,000,000 names on it. Woo Hoo!

  67. wattznext says:

    @ samurailynn

    Requiring ID to buy cold medicines that contain pseudoephedrine started around the time that people realized it could be used to make crystal meth.

  68. puka_pai says:


    The cashier simply put it away under the counter and said he did not feel comfortable selling it to me and he could lose his job.

    Unfortunately, this is a CYA move on the part of stores. As I understand it, the point is to keep a group of underage kids from having the one person in the group who is old enough buy the beer for the whole gang. But it’s crap, of course. Otherwise, no parent in the land could ever buy booze whenever they have their kids with them, and the result of that wouldn’t be pretty. ;-)

    I almost never buy alcohol, so I haven’t had my license scanned for that, but I did for the first time this week when I cashed a check at my local Wachovia branch.

  69. @Orv:

    Paranoia is useful (I like Churchill’s quote “Even paranoids have enemies”), but sometimes if it’s unreasonable, it’s just counterproductive.

  70. pegr says:

    Magnets destroy mag stripes. A Sharpie can render a barcode unreadable.

    Works for me!

  71. lhempheaven says:

    I ran into this the other day when I bought canned air to clean my computer keyboard. Not sure what I could have done with canned air, but I really wasn’t in the mood to argue. The cashier took 5 minutes trying to scan my license when she realized all she had to do was enter my birthdate into the computer.

    Here in NJ we can’t buy alcohol at Target, so I guess they have to regulate all those other “suspicious” purchases… geez!

  72. evslin says:

    @Jesse: Some states like Nebraska allows retailers to keep and record the ID information in a book and have the purchaser sign it affirming they are the person and the age listed.

    The Bag n Save on 108th and Maple in Omaha did that – they told me it’s not that they were “allowed”, but that they were “required” to do it. Must not have been life or death to them, because in the 2.5 years I lived in that neighborhood they only asked me to sign my name twice, and they were the only store in the area who did that that I’m aware of.

  73. ManiacDan says:

    The excellent [www.we-swipe.us] will give you some more background on license swiping. Apparently it’s legal, but you could just refuse and buy your alcohol elsewhere. I do know that for a while it was a commonly held belief that “take it out of your wallet so I can touch it” was not a legal demand, but I can’t find any actual evidence to back that up.

  74. johnva says:

    @Evil J: My only point is that there is no way for us to know or verify what they are or aren’t doing with that information once it’s in their system. Yes, it might or might not be illegal for them to use the data for some other purpose. But how am I going to know if they do? I don’t feel like I should have to trust every random store I go into with any and all personal information like that. My privacy should not depend on the ethics of a corporation.

    And you’re simply wrong if you don’t believe that personal information is valuable. Most of us might not be “worth spying on”, most of the time, but the information is still valuable. For example, a store might want to build a map of where their customers live, to help the select future locations or target marketing. And there are times where we ARE worth spying on, as I noted earlier. For example, ANY use of alcohol is often used against people in child custody hearings, regardless of whether or not they have an alcohol problem or have acted violently in the past while under the influence of alcohol. If lawyers can then subpoena electronic records, that information could become available even if Target didn’t use it for any other purpose and didn’t share it with anyone else except under court order. The mere existence of the electronic records creates a potential for further unintended invasions of privacy.

  75. samurailynn says:

    @VikingP77: I think it has to do with attitude. And probably the specific cashier. We had a foreign exchange student living with us who was 18. I’m only 26. I hand over my ID and then they ask for hers and I say, “no, she’s a foreign exchange student in high school. She lives with me, I’m her host mom.” So far I have not been turned down.

  76. Average_Joe says:

    Liquor stores do this, but with hand held readers that just verify age. Scanning an ID prevents the cashier from making a mistake or accepting a fake. Nothing wrong with scanning ids for that reason. The only problem would be if they logged that info into a database they ensure is secure.

  77. samurailynn says:

    @kylo4: You can get a state issued ID card. It looks similar to a driver’s license, but it doesn’t give you the authority to operate a vehicle. They also have barcodes.

    Alternately, you can also use a passport, but as far as I know those don’t have barcodes.

  78. theblackdog says:

    @VikingP77: If it’s anything like New Mexico, there is a law that anyone caught buying liquor for underage folks can be prosecuted (4th degree felony), hence why the liquor store cards everyone in the party.

    Or it could simply be because the law says in Idaho that everyone present during an alcohol purchase must be of age.

  79. Judes says:

    Who the hell buys wine at Target?

  80. chrisjames says:

    @johnva: True, but I wouldn’t get too paranoid about it. The possibilities are endless, but don’t forget to ground your actions and expectations in reality. You couldn’t stop them from recording your credit card number and selling it to those cramming businesses, no matter the law.

    I think a proper reaction is to tell the cashier, or more appropriately a manager, that you will refuse to shop there if they think that policy is necessary, whether they are recording the data or not. You may immediately engender a positive reaction and they’ll look into the policy. Or they won’t and you have to shop elsewhere for wine. Then inform the state of both what happened and your disagreement with the state’s policy on public data sharing (on the ID, that is). Write a congressman about it. Join or begin a coalition for data transfer safety. Or just tell Consumerist. :)

  81. johnva says:

    @Orv: I agree that the anti-alcohol paranoia is way out of control. This is just another symptom of that. Yes, some people can’t handle drinking without being irresponsible or getting addicted. But some people can’t handle driving, either. Sometimes risks have to be accepted in a free society.

    Credit card statements would only tell you about alcohol consumption in some cases, such as when there are lots of purchases at liquor stores or bars, etc. They wouldn’t be too useful in determining what part of a purchase from Target or the grocery store was alcohol and what part was other stuff, if the original receipt wasn’t available. And, that would be only a crude guide at best anyway since dollar amounts for alcoholic beverages can vary drastically for the same volume. Some wine is hundreds of times more expensive than some other wine.

  82. dweebster says:

    @hoot550: …and what is Target’s “Data Retention Policy”…?

    One idiot executive having a laptop in his trunk while he’s putting dollars into g-strings at “Leave it to Beaver’s” and someone’s got a nice identity-theft mother lode.

    Driver’s licenses numbers AND street addresses surrendered to some unknown and unregulated corporate database in exchange for a 6-pack?? No thanks – I’d stick to crack or heroin or some other untraceable relaxant rather than risk unaccountable corporate doofs with that info.

  83. bonzombiekitty says:

    Some bars do that around here, precisely because they want to be able to produce evidence that they verified IDs.

  84. ne1butu says:

    This practice is common at retailers who sell alcohol. It’s also common at many bars in NYC. I don’t know about elswhere. It would be helpful to know whether or not they are actually collecting and storing information or if they’re just scanning it to validate the authenticity of the ID. The bouncers and cashiers certainly don’t know what the corporate policy is, and the Target website doesn’t have any privacy policy that clears it up.

  85. pgh9fan says:

    In PA we have IDs than can be scanned as well. It’s much tougher to change a bar code than a date on the front. The state liquor store system has been doing this for a while. It instantly verifies the age of the person. It’s actually quite a nice little tool for preventing illegal purchases.

  86. MikeGrenade says:

    I work at Target and this is not the best way to go about this. The POS allows you to key the date of birth when prompted for ID, and that’s the way I’ve always done it. Swiping the card is bothersome. It leads to privacy concerns like this and it holds everyone up while you wait for the customer to rip their license out of that stubborn window in their wallet. Then you get to fight with the register’s scanner as it continuously fails to read their strip.

    The fact that the cashier was totally unaware they could skip swiping the ID tells me they were inadequately trained (Surprise!).

    Another thing to note: On July 2nd, Target updated its systems and removed the “Guest looks over 35” override. They now require ID for alcohol purchases no matter how old you look.

  87. SexierThanJesus says:

    @thesabre: “Uh oh, I think I broke the comment code by speaking my mind. I guess I’ll get booted now.”

    You really need to quit with the excessive exaggerations.

  88. @johnva:
    I didn’t say it wasn’t valuable, just that the pay-back in this instance doesn’t make sense.

    Personal info is valuable, but only if it can be used legally and (in most cases by a reputable or company afraid of litigation at the least) ethical manner. This isn’t to say that it can’t be done, isn’t done, or anything else, but if you’re talking about using this in a discriminatory manner in a legal way (i.e. a custody hearing) the collection of the information cannot be suspect, or it’s questionable (fruit of the tainted tree).

    It’s just… it makes very little sense. It’s not like storing/filing this kind of data is automatic and doesn’t require A) storage space or B) auditors. Imagine storing every alcohol purchase made by every person who enters a Target and storing that data for at least 7 years. The amount of space required would be tremendous.

    A government would be able to do this. A publicly-traded company spending this much on something like that? Not likely.

  89. funnyface says:

    @lhempheaven: “Huffers” abuse the propellant in canned air to get high. Some states now have laws to prevent this type of abuse.
    @Judes: Those of us who drink our wine cheap and from a wine cube?

  90. stanner says:

    Here’s an article about DL scans


    “How about everything that’s on the front of your driver’s license… name, address, birth date, height, weight, hair color, eye color, gender, picture, and in some cases, your signature! It all comes off a strip, called a 2d barcode, on the back of your license. And it only takes one quick swipe to read everything contained in that barcode”

  91. johnva says:

    @pgh9fan: It’s actually really easy to make a 2D barcode, if you have the ability to print things onto the license. You just need the proper software to do it, and I’m sure the people who make professional fake IDs have this. So the mere fact that the same information is encoded in the barcode isn’t much of a barrier. Now if they are actually verifying the information with a central database, THAT would actually help make it more secure. But they don’t need to scan a barcode to do that…they could just enter the number in manually and do the same thing.

  92. everclear75 says:

    Reasons like this make me glad that I ran my DL through a degausser. I know for a fact that my DL doesn’t swipe, cuz the last time I got a ticket, the officer had to manually enter my info instead of just swiping it like a credit card..

    /I did it just to be a dick…

  93. funnyface says:

    @everclear75: But would a degausser do anything about the barcode? Because when I buy wine at Target, it’s the barcode that gets scanned.

  94. johnva says:

    @Evil J: In case you aren’t aware, data storage space is becoming so cheap that it’s almost free. Governments aren’t the only organizations who have access to nearly limitless storage anymore. And I also suspect that the amount of information we’re talking about here is much less than you think relative to the size of large data storage systems these days. I have a 1 terabyte (1000 gigabyte) hard drive that was only about $200. The estimates I’ve seen is that even the largest data strings stored on a drivers’ license barcode are about 2000 bytes. Even if they stored the entire thing for every time someone returned to the store (a very conservative estimate, as they likely would only store it once, along with timestamps), they could store something on the order of 500,000,000 transactions just on my $200 hard drive. So it’s totally wrong that it’s infeasible cost-wise or technically to store all that data for 7 years. This is why a lot of people are really concerned about the ability of organizations to store and aggregate data about us. It’s now well within the realm of cost feasibility.

    And that information would be totally admissible in court, even if it was only retained for a legal purpose like verifying compliance with the alcohol purchasing laws. The mere fact that a subpoena was used to put it to a different purpose than the original intent doesn’t make it tainted.

  95. mehere says:

    Even worse . . . when my boyfriend and I bought wine at Target several months ago, they not only scanned his ID but also insisted on seeing mine! Their reasoning? We were “together.” Too stunned and speechless to think of alternatives (I hadn’t started to read Consumerist at that point), we meekly complied. I’m kicking myself to this day. Target, you have our undying suspicion and hatred.

  96. lalaland13 says:

    @puka_pai: @VikingP77: I hate how uptight everyone here is as well. Once I was buying some wine at Wal-Mart, had a 20-year-old friend with me. The cashier said, “I need to see his ID too.” Then said he couldn’t sell it to me if my friend was underage. Then why do they let moms with babies in strollers buy alcohol? OMG they’re getting the babies drunk! Noo! Why has America abandoned God?

    Of course, I also live in a place that still has lots of dry counties. And when the dry counties try to vote to become wet, who fights it? The liquor stores on the county line, of course. Makes me sick.

  97. VikingP77 says:

    Thanks for the responses everyone! Once I was buying a bottle of wine and my sis was with me. The woman didn’t card me or ask for hers. And all of this is happening in Portland Oregon by the way. And also my sister doesn’t drink. She is a very responsible student who hates beer and wine anyways. But yeah if some power trip cashier is going to do this to me then parents with their children shouldn’t be allowed to buy either. I bet that would get the policies changed! Also as I side note I checked the OLCC website and it said nothing about checking ID’s for the whole party. ONLY the ADULT PURCHASING the liquor. Okay my rant is over. We will just continue to split up when I pay and she can wait in the car I guess :-(

  98. detraya says:

    at my job we do the same thing. not a big deal :(. our machine doesn’t keep anything but the birthdate, but its faster then typing it in.

  99. Orv says:

    @johnva: Actually, a fair number of places now report the whole receipt to the credit card company, not just the total amount. So in those cases the credit card record would tell you about as much as the driver’s license swipe would.

    @johnva: While I agree the possibility is there, just because they *can* keep the data doesn’t mean they *will*. Here’s something you may not be aware of: Businesses don’t like having to pull up heaps of data for random subpoenas. It’s disruptive, it’s incredibly time-consuming, and it costs them money. For that reason, no matter how cheap storage space is, a lot of businesses have policies that regularly destroy any data they don’t need for legal compliance. If a record was destroyed according to policy, they aren’t required to produce it.

  100. starbreiz says:

    Liquor stores in Pennsylvania have been scanning my drivers license since I was old enough to by alcohol (been 8 years now)

    I assumed it was just for proof that they carded me.

  101. Karl says:

    Eventually, this is going to backfire badly. In Oregon, when you change your address or renew your license, the DMV sends you — get this — a STICKER to put over your address AND 2D barcode. The sticker has no security features that I can tell. Anyone with a cheap laser printer could make one with fake information, or information from another license (which would verify IF they bothered checking some sort of database, which I sorta doubt they do). At least this is the way it used to be — I haven’t lived there in a while, but I hear they still use the stickers.

    Cashiers are blindly trusting that the information in the barcode matches what’s on the card. I haven’t seen any safeguards deployed that would catch discrepencies (like entering the last four digits of the ID number manually, or something like that).

    The data format of the 2D barcode is a public standard. You can go to the AAMVA’s web site and get it. You can download open-source PDF417 software and make your own 2D barcode. They are perhaps one of the easiest parts to fake of an ID.

  102. Gouda says:

    I only use cash at the Target in Brooklyn after my card number got stolen not once, but twice immediately after shopping at that Target. Both times the customer credit card reader was broken and the cashier had to enter it. I am not comfortable with Target knowing ANY of my info.

  103. varro says:

    @MercuryPDX: And the liquor auditors (especially in Oregon) tend to be bureaucrats like Capt. Pratt from MASH, or people who think the Gestapo were too kind to minorities.

    Just try buying beer at the Safeway on MLK sometime. They know the OLCC gets their panties in a wad every time they hear of black people being able to buy alcohol.

  104. varro says:

    @The Stork: They don’t send it to Nigeria – just to Target National Bank in Minneapolis so you’ll get credit card apps out the wazoo.

  105. SaveMeJeebus says:

    Texas does this in bars too. They love my NY state license.

  106. bobosgirl says:

    if this ever happens to you again, please ask for a manager. My BIL manages a Winco here in OR. I had this happen to me at the Winco I shop at, when I had my 12 year old with me.
    She’s taller for her age, but looked every bit of 12, right down to the Disney Channel magazine she was reading as we checked out. I had wine in my cart, for an upcoming book club meeting ( hey we may read, but we’re far from dry) and the cashier told me she could not sell it to me because I may share it with “the young person with me.” I think I may have given her the “you’re kidding, right?” stare, because she quickly stated “if we feel uneasy about a customer purchasing alcohol, and we think you may be buying it for a minor, we are required to not sell the item!” My daughter and I looked at each other and she said to the cashier ” I’m TWELVE!I don’t drink wine!”
    The cashier buttoned her lip and finished ringing up my groceries, and as soon as she handed me my receipt ( the one with the wine rung up and then voided on it) I said “Can you call a manager for me , please?”
    I bagged my groceries, and by the time the manager reached the checkstand, she was purple she was so pissed. I explained to the manager what had transpired, and he looked at my daughter and then at my liscence ( which the cashier had refused) and apologized to me. He made the cashier give him the bottles of wine, which he rung up for me on an adjoining register. I thanked him, and told him that I understood that they needed to be cautious and follow the law, but that it was blatantly obvious that I wasn’t buying the wine for my daughter, who was 12, for cripes sake.
    The best thing about the whole experience is that he gave the checker the “you are truly a moron” look as we walked away, and they have a sign posted at each register now, explaining the policy in detail. I’ve never had a problem since. @VikingP77:

  107. buyer5 says:


  108. johnva says:

    @Orv: Wow, I wasn’t aware that many places are reporting that sort of detailed information about receipts. That’s even scarier, in my opinion.

    I’m aware that businesses don’t necessarily want the liability and logistical problems associated with storing lots of valuable data, and luckily that does provide an incentive not to retain so much data. I was mostly just responding to the point that only governments have the resources to store that much data, and that is totally false. If a business decides that it’s in their business interest to retain this sort of data, it’s totally within the realm of technical feasibility. It may well be that the main threat to privacy right now are businesses that specialize in data aggregation like Choicepoint, Google, etc. I’m just saying that in the future, as costs come down even more, I think data aggregation will be a growing problem unless we do something about it as a society. Every piece of information we share, ever, is now potentially linkable back to us. And I think a lot of us are still operating in a mindset where that is not the case.

  109. MercuryPDX says:

    @funnyface: some have the 2d barcode, others (NY? It did when I had a license there in ’99) have a magnetic stripe like a credit card.

  110. Doofio says:

    This is not that uncommon. Every ABC or similar liquor stores I’ve ever been carded at have always used a scanning device to ensure that the license is legit and in some states, are required by law to do so. Some bars also do this to check for fakes. When the ID is scanned, you’re address, and physical attributes appear on the screen…if nothing appears or the card doesn’t scan, chances are it’s a fake.

  111. johnva says:

    @bobosgirl: Yeah, I hate the fact that the “default” is to assume that you do intend to share alcohol with someone who is underage. That seems like they are trying to guess people’s intentions based on mere association alone. I do think that the law has gone way too far in that instance. When I was in college, I had similar problems when I was merely walking with another college student who happened to be 20 or whatever and who was performing a separate transaction. If I tell them the alcohol is for my own use, it’s not their right to probe into my social associations before deciding if I deserve to be able to buy it. It’s not like they can control what I do with alcohol after it leaves their store, so why should it be their job to police people like that within the store? That being said, I blame the politicians and cops responsible for these laws and their silly levels of enforcement more than I blame the stores. The stores themselves have unfairly been put in the position of being made responsible for the actions of customers who lie to them.

  112. Orv says:

    @varro: Yup. Businesses fear liquor auditors more than anyone else. They’re even worse than gaming agents. Gaming agents usually just want to punish crooked employees; liquor auditors will SHUT YOU DOWN.

  113. Jesse says:


    Must have been a store policy. I worked at a gas station in Omaha when going through college and it was company policy to use the book for those under 25 or so (none of us did). We were never told it was state law, but the books was soley a defense.


    If you check that document out from the Nebraska Liqour Control Commission, the last paragraph states it’s strongly suggested, not required to use the age verification book.

    On another note:


    At least in Nebraska, it’s a Class IV Felony to store information retrieved from an electronic ID checking device.

  114. bigbadbyte says:

    Stop overreacting. I worked at Target for 2 years. They don’t keep any of it, its just so that I don’t have to go, “Okay, today is the 20th of November 2007 and you were born in 1986 so that makes you….”

    Its to stop us from making mistakes. Its a simple calculator.

  115. samurailynn says:

    We really just need to get the law changed so that it is the person purchasing the alcohol and not the person selling it that gets in trouble. Currently, bars and stores can lose their liquor license if they are caught selling alcohol to minors. Also, the actual person (cashier, waitress, bartender) is responsible and can be fined (or there may even be jail time) for selling alcohol to minors. Our society wants to keep alcohol out of the hands of minors, so they put the restriction/consequences on those that can provide the alcohol. But it really is ridiculous that a person doing their normal grocery shopping can’t buy wine or beer for themselves if there is a minor present.

  116. varro says:

    @MikeGrenade: Clerks at many stores avoid that by putting in a random birthdate over 21 – my birthday is January 1 of whatever year the clerk decides to punch in.

    But I still don’t want my name and address getting on mailing lists because I had to show ID. I’d rather buy my beer and wine at the local co-op, where everyone knows me and doesn’t have to card me…

  117. MercuryPDX says:

    @samurailynn: Sadly, I don’t think that day will come. I know WA State considers holders of a class 12/13 permit (aka bartenders/servers license) their first line of defense against underage sales. You essentially agree to uphold that duty when you sign on the dotted line to get it.

    It’s easier to stop minors from getting alcohol in the first place, than it is to enforce the law after they already have it.

  118. varro says:

    @bobosgirl: Again, the OLCC at work. Even though the OLCC doesn’t explicitly state that everyone in a party has to be carded, OLCC reps probably tell the license-holders that.

    Of course, if everyone knows that’s the procedure, it’d be pretty easy for the under-21s to split off from the over-21s, have the over-21s buy the alcohol, and the under-21s buy the snacks at another register.

  119. MercuryPDX says:

    @samurailynn: Add to that, this doesn’t stop me from buying beer for a 16 year old waiting outside and around the corner. At that point >I< would be the one in trouble (if caught) for “Contributing to the delinquency of a minor”, and the store/cashier/server gets off scot-free.

    Whoever held it last before the kids get it gets nailed; the Budweiser version of “Hot Potato”. ;)

  120. chungkuo says:

    The same thing happened to me buying a copy of The Witcher video game (an “M” title). I told the checkout person that I didn’t want my license scanned and she told me she couldn’t sell it without doing that, so I left.

    I went to another Target to see if it was a company-wide policy, and the same thing happened. While I was discussing with the cashier why I didn’t want her scanning my driver’s license, my wife noticed something on the register screen. There is an option to “enter birth date” right there on the screen. The cashier apparently didn’t know about this and told us it wouldn’t work, but she would try it. She typed in my birth date and lo, it worked.

    So, Consumerists, if this happens at a Target, you can politely tell the cashier that you don’t want your license scanned, and that they should just type in your birthdate. If they refuse, I’d ask for a manager and point to the “enter birth date” blinking right there on the register screen.

  121. johnva says:

    @MercuryPDX: And unfortunately the cultural and legal baggage associated with the repeal of Prohibition gives the states almost unlimited power to regulate alcohol. So all kinds of silly, invasive laws (like the laws that hold bartenders and waiters personally responsible if they “should have spotted” a fake ID that someone presented to them) are tolerated and remain on the books. Meanwhile we have other groups who are actively for even more regulation of alcohol, usually by conflating underage drinking or drinking in alcohol with drunk driving. Everyone hates drunk driving, so the ridiculous laws get passed.

  122. scootinger says:

    Target did this to me not too long ago when I was doing a return, WITH a receipt, and nothing wrong with it….needless to say I was a little annoyed.

  123. smonkey says:

    When I use to bartend we were always told to never take the wallet to look at an ID. It’s really hard to accuse the bartender of stealing something from your wallet when they never touched it.

  124. Hanke says:

    @msbask: Typically the system only connects to the state system, or is independant of any networked system.

  125. thruhike98 says:

    I’m reading a lot of comments to the effect of “it’s just for verification, it’s not recorded.” My thoughts on this,

    – The Cashier never looked at the screen after the scan, not until telling us the total price. He did not compare a scan result to the license information. It was scanned like it was one more item on the conveyor belt. We saw no confirmation/verification that the two sets of info matched.

    – Several commenters agree that this may be a C.Y.A. thing for Target to do. I agree. If so, Why would they *not* save the information?!? How much C’ing.Y.A. is it going to do for them if they *don’t* save this data?!?

    – What expertise/experience lets the commenter speak confidently about what is saved and what is not. If they speak from a position of authority, great! Please let readers know how you know this, and we’ll all rest assured. I don’t know for sure, which is why I’m raising the question.

  126. jook says:

    I worked at target. The barcode usually didn’t cooperate for me. I always swiped them for the mag strip instead.

  127. ianmac47 says:

    So yeah, you basically have come across the very reason why the Federal Government’s Real ID should not be allowed.

  128. FelixCat says:

    You should let the brass hats at HQ know your opinion. On a prior Consumerist article the below contact info appeared, here it is again:

    Target CEO Gregg W. Steinhafel’s email and phone number:
    Gregg “If you squint I look like Alec Baldwin” Steinhafel
    fax: 612-696-6325

    Assistant:Denise May

    you can also find it at http://www.targetfiling.blogspot.com

  129. Asvetic says:

    @madrigal: Same for me… and then I get a birthday card every year telling me I should have a party with all of my friends at said night club. I didn’t ask to sign up for any mailings…

    Fucking marketing scheme is all it is!

  130. sidkid88 says:

    Don’t want them scanning your id and possibly getting all of your information? Easy, first find a strong magnet, then hold your id magnetic strip over it (not touching it). The magnetic field should corrupt the information and it will no longer be able to be scanned.

  131. sean77 says:

    @Evil J: are you sure it hasn’t been less than a year? I had my license scanned by a marlboro rep once, ever since they’ve sent me a weird collection of shit. For example, every year they send me a birthday gift (usually something kitchy like a deck of cards).

  132. MercuryPDX says:

    @sean77: :( All I get is a “rubber stamped” birthday card and $10 off carton coupon.

  133. zxw55 says:

    In NY there are two bar codes on the driver’s license, one at the top and one at the bottom. The top one is a standard looking barcode (Target uses Metrologic scanners that reads this standard 3of9 codes at checkout) that has the driver’s license number and D.O.B. I suspect the DOB is of interest to Target (young cashier friend not selling boze to friends). I don’t know what the more complex barcode information has on it but I don’t believe the scanner is programmed to read it at cash out.

    Yes I’m a geek and I just scanned my own NY driver’s license with a Target compatible scanner and the 3of9 code has D.O.B. I also have supplied product to Target that use the Metrologic barcode scanner so I understand their technology.

    I suspect the cashier was blustering without knowing what they were talking about. I seriously doubt they have “ALL”, but enough that the police could obtain “all” if there was litigation.

    geek zxw55

  134. SinisterMatt says:


    What happens when you write a check? When I worked at a grocery store, sometimes when I got a check the computer would mandate a ID Check. We had to then get the number, feed it to the cash register, and it verifies it as valid or whatever.

    I would imagine that it verifies against a database somewhere, and the DMV probably gave them access to theirs.

    Just a thought!


  135. FLConsumer says:

    Stories like this make me glad that I still have my original high-school license, which was made in the converted school bus the DMV used to bring around to the schools.

    Terrible photo, piss-poor lamination job (the fakes we made were more real-looking), and still has the Under 21 background & markings on it…. BUT I’m holding onto it as long as I can. No barcodes/mag stripes anywhere on it. Scan this Target!

  136. mr mike says:

    I have always scraped the magnetic strip so it can not be read. If you swipe it in a reader while open in word, it displays most of the info on the license. I don’t want companies to have the ability to gather my info so easily.

  137. Paladin_11 says:

    Keep in mind too that regardless of the businesses’ privacy policy, all of that collected information is accessible via subpoena. I’m reminded of a case where a lawyer was able to show a pattern of heavy drinking on the part of a defendant based on the amount of beer this person regularly bought using his Safeway club card. Of course buying beer and drinking beer yourself are two different things. But that level of granularity usually doesn’t make it into court. The damage was done the minute this information made it into the court records.

  138. Triterion says:

    Target did this to me when I bought Metal Gear Solid 4, I wasn’t pleased. If they retain the address for themselves it violates a California law, so they better not have! I’ll think twice before buying a game from target for this reason.

  139. Major-General says:

    @trogam: Changes recently to the computers in California prompt for all restricted material with no override available. Annoying if you know someone is an adult and is buying Nicorette. There is a key you can press to hand key the DOB into the computer.

    @Jesse: The swipping/scanning thing for restricted items is more a quality assurance issue; after all, you can mistype a number. It’s also for speed. Cashiers are graded on the speed of the transaction, and typing a number is much longer than swipping a card.

    @VikingP77: I believe in some states that a purchase with a minor present is a crime, but don’t quote me on it. I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere where they didn’t card all members of a party.

  140. Want an adult product, expect to prove you are an adult. The scanning of the ID was done for proof of age verification.

    Next time just buy grape juice and leave the paranoia at home.

  141. mdoublej says:

    Here’s the situation I worry about:

    Pulled over by cops for taillight that’s out or some other nonsense. Cop runs ID, computer comes back that I purchased a 30 pack of beer earlier that night. Does that put me under the suspicion of driving under the influence?

  142. bobosgirl says:

    Then how come this has never happened to my husband while buying beer with my 8 year old with him, or to me at Safeway or Fred Meyer when I have her or my 18 year old with me? Nope, I think this was simply the case of a cashier who was over-cautious ( maybeeeee a bit power hungry) and not just the OLCC. Even the manager seemed to think she was a little screwy.@varro:

  143. thruhike98 says:

    @Corporate-Shill: Your post is elegant in its simplicity. It, however, addresses a totally different point from that raised in this story.

    “Thruhike98 wants to know why Target needs all of this data, and so do we. As he points out in his blog post, it’s possible that by scanning the card they’re creating verifiable evidence that they performed the required ID check-but in the meantime, the customer has just inadvertently given up all of his license data to a faceless corporation.”

    There is no issue with providing proof of age. One can not live in this country and not expect that to occur. The issue is with the capture of all of the other information that is unneeded for such a transaction – ie. name, address, visual acuity, endorsements, etc.

    I want to determine who has my personal identifying information and how it’s used. Target’s taking of it without permission or providing any information about their data use/protection policy is the problem.

  144. Citron says:

    @starbreiz: Huh. The first time I bought liquor, on my 21st birthday, I wasn’t even carded. This was on South Street in Philly, too. I’ve been not carded a lot, actually.

    Funny, too, considering that all of Pennsylvania’s liquor stores are owned and operated solely by the state.

  145. SpenceMan01 says:

    Can’t vouch for Target, but I can for Best Buy. I worked there from 1999-2001, during which time they implemented their DL mag-strip reading capabilities for checks. For checks over $25, a request was sent to Equifax for approval. The info sent included the MICR info from the check, the DL number, state, and birthdate. When I first started, all of the information from the DL needed to be hand-keyed into the register.

    After they updated the system, we were able to merely swipe the DL and it filled in the information for us. It was faster and more accurate. It really cut down on the number of declined checks due to mis-typed DL numbers.

  146. Green Goth Brit Chick - AlternatEve says:

    Oh they would have loved me when I was in the States. My only ID proving I was over 21 was my UK passport – and if they’d tried to copy it there would have been HELL to pay when I told the Passport Office ;)

  147. puka_pai says:


    I think this was simply the case of a cashier who was over-cautious ( maybeeeee a bit power hungry)

    That was definitely the case at my last job. The only person who would refuse to sell if a member of the group was underage was only 23 himself. I think it gave him a thrill.

    OTOH, I had a customer one night come unglued because he watched a group of young guys (probably aged 18-19) get someone to buy them beer. He wanted to me to run out and stop them, call the Feds, call Underdog! I figured that since it was 4 guys and 1 quart-sized bottle of shitty beer, how much trouble could they get into?

  148. Jesse says:


    We don’t know exactly what data Target’s collecting, if anything. This cashier is the ONLY source in this story who told the consumer that Target needed to and collected everything. Pretty shaky source in my book.

    Last time I checked, there are some pretty clueless cashiers out there. This particular one more than likely an idiot. I will bet money that Target just scanned the ID for age verification, end of story.

    I will also bet money it’s illegal in a lot of jurisdictions to store scanned DL data in the first place (see my document above for a Nebraska example).

    This is a non-issue.

  149. varro says:

    @bobosgirl: It depends on where you are as well….up here in NE Portland, the OLCC believes that black people buying alcohol = trouble, so they put the screws to the stores north of Lloyd Center, and heavily grill bar/club owners who even want to present jazz, let along R&B and hip-hop.

  150. Tijil says:

    Here is what is encoded in the 2D code on driver’s licenses in my state:

  151. Tijil says:
  152. D-Bo says:

    I worked in a convenience store years ago and this was standard procedure for tobacco/liquor purchases.

  153. Rxram says:

    They do not record any of your information…. The scanning of the license makes it easy for the cashier to determine whether or not you are over the age of 21… In other words the register will sort the data determine you are of age and leave the cashier to continue in his or her own mundane bliss… They don’t even need to struggle to find the location of the date of birth any longer. The scanners were originally implemented for the new Pseudoephedrine purchasing restrictions… In which we do actually collect all of the data on your license, which subsequent to the scan is clearly printed on our screen for verification. The only thing shocking about this story is that this guest is still under some delusion allowing him the nothing he actually has a shred of privacy left.

  154. arl84 says:

    @Evil J: hahaha, I heart you.

  155. bobosgirl says:

    I hope what happens in N.Portland never makes its way up to Forest Grove, then! I hate it when people or organizations bring predjudice into situations, making it that much harder to do your job or follow the rules.@varro:

  156. audioblood says:

    I am a cashier at Target:

    I am almost certain scanning your license does NOT save any information on our database; it simply confirms that the license is real, and checks that you are of age to buy alcohol (and certain drugs as well)

    Additionally, just a week or two ago, Target changed its policy regarding IDs – it used to be that we only had to ID people who looked under the age of 35. If they were obviously older, we could bypass the prompt to check ID. However, we now have to ID every single time we are prompted, and we have no way to bypass the prompt.

    However, most important, as far as I see, is that we do not have to scan the ID. We can also just look at the ID and enter your birthdate into the computer. Tell the cashier to do that, if you are not comfortable with us scanning the ID.

  157. mannymix03 says:

    Oh man, they might get your address and your name!
    Watchout, ya know because that can’t be looked up using my phone number or name!

    Fucking people and their privacy paranoia, Bars do this frequently to verify that the barcode and front both check out, its to protect themselves. Besides i’m sure they could do much more with your CC number than your drivers license.

  158. takotchi says:

    I never allow my license to be scanned. Stores can say they don’t do anything with that data all they want, but who knows what really happens to it?

    I also don’t show my ID for anything that isn’t legally required. That includes things like paint and video games. To me, a store (morally-speaking) doesn’t have the right to see that kind of information unless absolutely required by law, and they certainly don’t need to store it in any way.

  159. Jim K says:

    They do this at the Countrywide (wink) Arena I work part time at, to verify 21.

    You know what I think is funny? People that still think they have some kind of privacy. It’s a hoot! Almost as much of a laugh is the ‘I’ll pay cash, and be off the grid” people that post in a public forum via the internet.

    You do know that the Pentavirate is storing the ISP info for when they start taxing teh interwebs, right?

  160. jjason82 says:

    You guys don’t get this already? I live in Bakersfield, CA and EVERY SINGLE TIME I buy something requiring to show ID they scan it. Not just Target, everywhere. Grocery stores, gas stations, bars, whatever. And yes, as one of the first posters said, it is to check against the actual state database. This way they don’t have to worry about manually checking to see if its a false id. If it doesn’t ring up, they call the police.

  161. bwcbwc says:

    @Jesse: A service portal at the DMV that just returns “true” or “false” to indicate whether the license is valid would probably be considered a legitimate use of DMV data. Also, this would only work on licenses that are new enough to have a bar code or strip to scan.

  162. MisterE87 says:

    They scan my ID with the credit card machine when I buy alcohol at the liquor store. One time I was curious and leaned over to look at the display – it just said my full name on the first line, and my age on the second line. Nothing sinister. Some people are just paranoid.

  163. danielly37 says:

    In Pennsylvania, all of the information is located on the magnetic strip. Bars here that have scanners have a sign posted near the entry that say something to the effect of “by consenting to a license scan, you may be added to our mailing list for marketing purposes.” Some of the bars send postcards out on your birthday – but they wouldn’t know all of that information unless they took it from your license. Same situation as the marlboro reps @Evil J mentioned.

    And the liquor stores are state-owned – when THEY scan your license, along with the liquor, they are pulling all of your personal info + whatever you bought.

  164. ChrisNF says:

    Some bars started doing this in Canada so in theory they could know who was present if something bad happened. After a complaint the the Alberta Privacy Commissioner, that practice was squashed. Does the US have something like a Privacy Commissioner?

  165. Tijil says:

    @ChrisNF: “Some bars started doing this in Canada so in theory they could know who was present if something bad happened. After a complaint the the Alberta Privacy Commissioner, that practice was squashed. Does the US have something like a Privacy Commissioner?”



    No we don’t.

  166. target36 says:

    here we go with the paranoia over “personal information”–the company will not sell anyone’s address or organ donor info to another company! It is used to scan your date of birth instead of having your cashier invert the numbers and then typing in the wrong date-therefore preventing the consumer from not being able to buy alcohol. Anyone who thinks differently is assuming the worst from this company.

    • Anonymous says:

      Target will scan your license for any credit card purchase, not just alcohol. If I’m buying a shirt or silverware they should be able to just look at the name to mach with the credit card not swipe ALL my info for a mundane purchase.

  167. golddog says:

    I was annoyed when Target scanned my license for an “age restricted DVD”, but last week I was shopping for the nonprofit I work for, and they scanned the license b/c I was buying tax exempt. The receipt had my name, DOB, full personal address and license number printed on the top of the receipt that they keep and show to the state if they get audited. All this info was on the screen as well and I am sure it is saved for the same reason. However, it’s not cool having my personal info connected to a tax exempt purchase as I am not personally a tax exempt entity. To use tax exempt stuff for personal use is fraud. I’m sure if anyone came knocking, I could get it straightened out, but should I even have to consider that possibility? No. If Target wants to vet my nonprofit and give me a card so they can document what organization/employee bought stuff, fine.

    They’re saving scan info in this instance, what makes it so hard to save it for all instances? If the checkout aisle at Target was a website, they’d have to have a privacy policy. Why can’t they issue a statement simply explaining how/when/why/what and who has access to it??

  168. Anonymous says:

    Same thing happened to me at Target in FL today – will NEVER buy a bottle of beer or wine there again and will reduce my purchases there as much as possible. This is NOT for verifying age, certainly not in my case. I am 50 and do NOT look like I am 20. Cashier asked to SEE my ID, not to SWIPE my card and STEAL my information. I was surprised/not paying attention so I let the person see my driver’s license – took it out of my hand and swiped it before I could react. This will NOT happen again. Need to file a complaint now wherever I can.