This is my second post on the BC Privacy Commissioner's recent order in the Wild Coyote Club complaint. The first is available here. A press release from the Commissioner's Office is available here, while the full decision is here.
The story made big waves in the media:
- Barwatch program violates privacy laws: commissioner - CBC News
- Vancouver nightclub must destroy customer information it had no right to collect - The Province
- B.C. watchdog bans ID scans at bars - Times Colonist
- Bars violate privacy laws - Nanaimo Daily News
- B.C. bars violating personal information by scanning I.D. - Vancouver Sun
Only Wild Coyote Club
First of all, it is important to note that the order is specific to the Wild Coyote Club and their application of the TreoScope system. While other clubs may make changes based on this decision, some may continue to scan IDs for the foreseeable future. Expect more fallout from this decision over the weekend as clubgoers find they are still being scanned.
Opening the TreoScope black box
The order explores the workings of the TreoScope system in great detail, explaining what information is collected, how it is stored, and who it is available to. This discussion is particularly interesting because in the past, TreoScope has been less than forthcoming with information about their system's inner workings.
Information collected by the TreoScope system includes:
- Date of birth
- License number
- Partial postal code
This information is used to generate a patron profile, tracking visits to other clubs using the TreoScope system.
Staff of the club can only see the following:
- Age (not date of birth)
- Notes on patron specific to that club (incidents, VIP status, etc.)
All of the information is stored on TreoScope's servers, and no club has access to information generated by other clubs aside from "community incident" reports, which are sent out if a patron behaves poorly at the club.
TreoScope as Licensing Requirement
Interestingly, the Liquor Branch has required some establishments to install a TreoScope-like ID scanning system. ABLE BC, a liquor industry lobby group, submitted that "the supply and recording of identification is necessary to provide our service and to protect our customers and the public."
Necessity of collection
In determining the "necessity" of data collection, the Commissioner looked to three areas:
- nature of information collected
- purpose of collection
- the scope of the collection
The collection of personal information must be "integral to the provision of the product or service". Throughout the entire analysis, the collection of information must be minimal. The standard is higher the more sensitive the information collected is.
In the case of TreoScope and the Wild Coyote Club, the Commissioner found that the collection was not necessary to provide the service, and that the purposes outlined could be met by less invasive means.
Necessity of data retention
In ordering Wild Coyote Club and TreoScope to destroy data collected in violation of PIPA, the Commissioner wrote that since "it is not necessary or appropriate for Wild Coyote to collect the full range of information which is at present collected by the TreoScope system, it is not necessary for Wild Coyote to retain that information for any period."
It remains to be seen what impact the decision will have on the practices of other bars and clubs in BC. Public opinion has been split between those relieved that their personal information will finally be protected to those who are concerned that gang violence will spike. This story certainly will not end with the Privacy Commissioner's order.