LB 261–Unnecessary and Dangerous

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!

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “LB 261–Unnecessary and Dangerous

  1. Pingback: ACTION ALERT: Call Your Nebraska State Senator Thursday Noon-2 p.m. | Grassroots in Nebraska

  2. Allen Hudson

    The senators who oppose this seem to be mainly concerned about the security of the information being kept private. A valid concern. I’ve received a few responses from senators and the bill is perceived as a benign added function of the barcodes and not the beginning of an chipped license. I think our best hope with this is to push the fact that the type of machine-readable device is not specified. If I remember correctly, is using the same machine-readable language as the REAL ID bill that was rejected. So if senators want us to believe it remains a barcode, it should be defined that way. If the bill passes, would the DMV be able to choose their type of technology? I talked personally to a senator from western NE that will vote for this bill, but vote to repeal it if it goes to RFID in the future. I worry how much authority the DMV has to work with technologies offered by the federal government. One grant and it may all be down hill from there, maybe? The bill also opens the door to paperless money, offering retailers the ability to run an approval for a written check. Something the Federal Reserve will appreciate, with their goals on the table. One senator relayed to me that Congress has promised to revisit the REAL ID act and it’s not actually mandated to states at this point.

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