LB 261, introduced by Senator Kent Rogert (16 – Tekamah), will “provide for use of machine-readable information encoded on drivers’ licenses and state identification cards.” Information would be limited to the age and identification number of the individual. All 49 other states allow such information to be machine-read at the point-of-sale. It is a measure intended to reduce the likelihood of check fraud and illegal sale of alcohol, tobacco, and lottery tickets. However, it is unnecessary and could lead to more and more intrusion on the purchasing habits of individuals.
This piece of legislation is similar to many other progressive statutes enacted over the years. In the name of convenience, the legislature enacts such regulations. They slip past the radar of the watchful citizenry, and seem to be helpful, but they add up to an intrusive and inefficient government.
First, how much of a convenience is the machine-reading technology? I estimate that it takes an average of twenty seconds to read a birth date off an ID and input it into the register. By having to input the information by hand, the clerk is required to look directly at the person’s ID. It increases the likelihood of the clerk actually looking at the picture on the ID and comparing it to the customer. In contrast, with the ability to simply swipe the ID the likelihood for the clerk to check the physical identity is greatly reduced and would result in more fraudulent use of other people’s ID’s to purchase age-required items. Furthermore, LB 261 says retailers “may scan” ID’s, so there will undoubtedly be many thousands which choose not to purchase more software to keep such a database. Therefore, the use of machine-reading technology is hardly any more convenient, and could be counter-productive in preventing sale of alcohol, tobacco, and lottery tickets to minors.
Next, the gathered data needs to be scrutinized. What is the purpose of keeping such data? As delineated, the only reason would be to make it easier for the state to audit businesses to ensure compliance with age-limited item sales. As described above, though, the use of such technology does not ensure that such sales are being made only to persons of proper majority age. Therefore, it could be argued that such an audit would do nothing more than add another unnecessary work load to state regulators. Fortunately, LB 261 forbids retailers from using the data, however, another use for the gathering of such data could be discerned. The state would obviously have a database of all driver’s licenses and ID’s. It would be easy enough to download businesses’ “age + license number” records and match them up with state records. By doing so, it would be fairly easy to create a lasting database of all alcohol, tobacco, and lottery purchasing habits of all Nebraskans and visitors to Nebraska. I see no provision in LB 261 that would prevent such data-mining. How would YOU like to be on the state’s alcohol/tobacco/lottery ticket purchaser’s list? Frankly, it is none of Nebraska’s business to track any person’s purchasing habits.
LB 261 is being presented as a means to prevent improper sale of alcohol, tobacco, and lottery tickets to minors. However, it lacks the technical uniformity to prevent such sales. Clerks could still make errors or purposefully avoid the statute to sell age-restricted items to minors. As with gun-control laws and many other police-state statutes, this will be easily bypassed by individuals with criminal intent, the average Nebraskan will end up on an Orwellian list of possible offenders, and the statute will create more of a financial burden on the State of Nebraska. Please call your state senator to demand that LB 261 be DENIED!