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Privacy groups decry San Francisco ID scan proposal

San Francisco

A plan by the City of San Francisco’s Entertainment Commission that would require nightclub and concert goers to have their personal identification scanned at events in the city, then stored for 15 days on the city’s databases, drew protests from privacy rights groups on April 12.

The information would be available to law enforcement without a warrant, subpoena or court order, said the groups.

A rash of shootings in and around nightclubs in the city in 2010 prompted Mayor Gavin Newsom to look for ways to stem the violence. In September, Newsom’s office proposed scanning nightclub patrons' IDs, along with installing metal detectors, security cameras, increased outside lighting and an added police presence at the clubs.

The San Francisco Entertainment Commission held an open meeting on April 12 to hear comments on the plan from the public. Privacy rights groups said the plan to scan patron’s IDs and store the information on the city’s facilities for 15 days where law enforcement could access it “would pose a grave threat to the Constitutional rights to free speech, freedom of association, and to the privacy rights of all patrons who wish to attend events at venues with Place of Entertainment permits in San Francisco. These proposed rules should be rejected immediately,” said the groups.

PrivacyActivism, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, IP Justice, Beat the Chip, Center for Financial Privacy and Human Rights, Patient Privacy Rights, and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee submitted their comments the committees on April 12. 

“Scanning the ID’s of all attendees at an anti-war rally, a gay night club, or a fundraiser for a civil liberties organization would result in a deeply chilling effect on speech, since participants could not attend without their attendance being noted, stored, and made available on request to government authorities,” they said.

They said the scans, as well as storage of the ID data posed several problems, not the least of which was inviting “troubling secondary uses of the data,” as well as opening it up for theft by identity thieves and hackers and possible abuse by law enforcement

Since the rules would allow law enforcement “a direct pipeline” of access to the information without a warrant, the rules co-opt private security measures, abuses the rights of club attendees, they said.

It also invites local law enforcement abuse, they said. “The proposed rule would allow police to make a wholesale request for information every fifteen days, creating their own internal database of which individuals visit which particular venues and how often.  The last time SFPD created an intelligence unit, a court disbanded it to stop multiple documented abuses. The San Francisco Entertainment Commission should not invite history to repeat itself,” they said.


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