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What Do Driver's License Scanners Do With Our Information?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Ever wonder why stores scan your driver's license when you buy alcohol, cigarettes or lottery tickets?  Lots of WCCO viewers have and reached out to us looking for answers.

Dennis from Minneapolis wrote to Good Question asking: Are they watching me and what I buy?

"We don't store the store information," said Chad Vollmers, store leader at the Bobby and Steve's in Bloomington. "And, it tells us that you're of legal age."

Vollmers walked WCCO through the scanning process for buying a pack of cigarettes. First, he scanned the cigarettes which prompted an age verification request on his register. Then, he scanned the bar code on the back of the drivers license. Once the license was scanned, the screen showed the transaction is allowed to proceed. It didn't show any data of what was on the driver's license.

"We don't see a name, we don't see an age," Vollmers said. "We see nothing of the information from your license."

Vollmers said more retailers are using scanners to take away the possibility of human error.

It's similar technology used at airports by the Transportation Security Administration, which also says it doesn't store the information.

"IDs are scanned at the checkpoint using  our Credential Authentication Technology (CAT) machine, which enhances detection capabilities for identifying fraudulent documents such as driver's licenses and passports and increases efficiency by automatically verifying passenger identification," said Jessica Mayle, a regional spokesperson for TSA in a statement to WCCO.

Driver's License Scan At Gas Station To Buy Cigarettes
(credit: CBS)

In Minnesota, there is no "swiping" law that determines what retailers can do with the information gained from driver's licenses. But, the Minnesota Department of Driver and Vehicles Services does have to allow organizations or businesses to be able to decode the encrypted information.

"We have different levels of viewing that we authorize," said Pong Xiong, director of Minnesota Driver and Vehicle Services.

For retailers, that generally includes access to the information that is available on the front of the card like name, address, age, eye color, weight and date of birth.  Other organizations, like law enforcement, can get access to more information, like drivers records.

WCCO reached out to several businesses asking what they do with the scanned information. Dollar General, Holiday and Cub Foods all said they use it only for age-verification and do not store the data.

"Protecting customer information is a priority for CUB and our system only records the transaction as "age verified," according to a statement from Cub Foods. "Cub does not retain any customer data, track purchases, or lottery winnings nor do we submit any reports to the state or any other party."

The Minnesota Lottery, where tickets can only be bought by people 18 and older, said it doesn't require retailers to scan drivers licenses.

"How a retailer verifies that their customers are of legal age to purchase lottery products is determined by their own policies," said Emily Frost, a Minnesota Lottery spokesperson in a statement to WCCO.

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