Why Bars Scan Your Face and ID When You Walk In

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SACRAMENTO — As bouncers filter people into bars and clubs, a second layer of security — so small that you’ll likely miss it — is watching.

It’s a small camera that scans the face and takes a picture of everyone who walks in.

Peter Riccobono, manager of Coin Op Game Room on Sacramento’s busy K Street, loves the service — Patron Scan.

“If an individual comes in here and causes a problem, whether it be theft, or over-intoxication, or fighting, or sexual assault or harassment, it gives us the ability to put an alert on them,” he told FOX40. “So if they were to come back into our bar or attempt to come back into our bar, it would immediately put up a red flag to us.”

That red flag would not only get to Coin Op but a network of bars in all 50 states.

If someone is flagged for violent behavior in one bar that person could be blacklisted from others, including dozens in the Sacramento area.

“If you decide you wanna be a tough guy every time you go out and try and start fights bar owners want to know that,” Riccobono said.

But the bigger concern is that along with your photo, Patron Scan collects information from your ID or driver’s license.

The idea that your personal information can be shared is unsettling to some.

“In this day of privacy and hacks, I think your personal information should be and will be protected,” Assemblyman Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, told FOX40.

Cooper came across this issue himself at a bar and felt it was an invasion of privacy.

“Is it being shared with 50 people, 100 businesses, a thousand businesses?” Cooper said. “That’s really what it comes down to, their right to privacy.”

Cooper is pushing a bill through the state legislature that would make it illegal for bar managers to share anyone’s personal information with other bar owners.

“Currently they’re allowed to do that, which is part of the problem. The legal issue is that they’re unregulated,” said privacy expert Rick Arney.

Arney says Cooper’s bill is a major step toward protecting people’s data. Even in the name of safety, he worries the bars that hold people’s information could be vulnerable to hacking.

“They might balance the two and say, ‘Yeah, I want to go to a bar that’s safe. I don’t want people that shouldn’t be there,'” Arney said. “However, is the cost of it our information being sold and spread everywhere?”

Riccobono says the data they store is limited to just a person’s picture, name and date of birth.

“We get more positive feedback than we do negative feedback,” Riccobono said.

The majority of bar-goers FOX40 spoke with did not have any issues with Patron Scan — including Erin Tucker, who says she has been sexually harassed at bars in the past.

“It’s nice to know if something is out of hand there, if I tell someone there’s actually repercussions,” she said.

But not everyone at the bar feels that way. Chelsea Schott says the camera caught her off guard.

“I was very uncomfortable with that,” Schott said. “They should at least explain it to me.”

In a world ever more reliant on personal data, the question remains — how much are we willing to give up for security and at what risk?

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