Last Driver-License Scanning Holdout—Nebraska—May Be About To Cave

The only state left in the U.S. that still prohibits retailers from capturing drivers' license numbers—Nebraska—may be about to give up its resistance. Its state Senate on Monday (Jan. 12) overwhelmingly (33-8) approved allowing the practice.

The bill still has to clear a few hurdles before it becomes law (the new vote was only a preliminary first-round vote). It has a stretch limo-sized list of restrictions. But the move is still quite important, as retailers have been using driver's licenses for a lot more than age verification and check-cashing, including keeping a tally on customers who return too often without receipts.

Some Nebraska politicians are still resisting the license scans, citing privacy concerns. Those in the Nebraska Senate who were uncertain about the measure took some solace in an amendment that says anybody who trades or sells information gleaned from license scans is guilty of a felony. The amendment also says alcohol, lottery ticket and tobacco product merchants are allowed to store the age and license number of customers only after posting a sign at the POS explaining that they'll be doing it. Another section puts the onus on those who program the scanning devices.

"The programmer for computer software designed to store such information shall certify to the retailer that the software is capable of storing only the information allowed by this subsection," states the bill. "Intentional or grossly negligent programming by the programmer that allows for the storage of more than the age and identification number shall be a Class IV felony."

Turning a careless programmer into a felon? I can just see new indemnification clauses being demanded by every programmer who is being aggressively recruited. What about shareware or freeware? Good luck tracking down which open-source programmer wrote that particular portion of a Linux program. ("Hey, Brenda, what's the term for grossly negligent programming in Nebraska?" "An Oracle upgrade." Rimshot.)

Currently in Nebraska, only the courts and police can scan drivers' licenses and the information gleaned by those scans is the same as what is displayed on the front of the licenses, the AP reported. It said Beverly Neth, the director of Nebraska's department of motor vehicles, told the State Senate it will be trusting retailers to not gather and sell information that Federal law prohibits motor vehicle agencies from releasing to the public. “You’re only supposed to store two bits of information,” she said. “But sitting in front them is a bunch of information about a person. We’re putting a lot of trust in retailers.”