Ottawa, Ontario – The Privacy Commissioner of Canada, and the Information and Privacy Commissioners of Alberta and British Columbia, have released new guidance on the issue of retailers who collect information from consumers’ driver’s licenses and record the numbers. The new guidelines will help retailers determine whether it is appropriate to collect the numbers.

“More and more retailers are asking to see driver’s licenses and are recording numbers, often in contravention of privacy laws,” said federal Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart.

Retailers say they are asking for the information for a number of reasons, including verification of identity of someone using a credit card or picking up paid-for merchandise, or for deterring and detecting fraud, particularly when merchandise is returned without a receipt. The Commissioners noted that a driver’s license number is a particularly sensitive piece of information, which can be valuable to identity thieves, and all three have received numerous complaints about retailers requesting the information.

“A driver’s license is proof that someone is allowed to drive a car,” said B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner David Loukidelis. “It is not a universal identity card. Nor is it an appropriate identifier for use in analyzing shopping return habits.”

Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec have adopted privacy law covering the private sector; everywhere else in Canada, federal privacy legislation applies. The common criteria in all legislation requires that collection of the personal information from the driver’s license must be for a specific and reasonable purpose. The new guidelines explain that many business purposes can be satisfied by simply looking at the identification or, at most, recording the name and address appearing on the license. This is a major difference from recording the number on it or photocopying the whole document.

Consumers should ask for an explanation of why the information is being requested, particularly when a retailer attempts to record the number or photocopy the license. If consumers are not satisfied with the explanation, they can ask to speak to a manager or contact the appropriate Privacy Commissioner’s Office. The guidelines are available on the Canadian Government website, or at the specific websites for Alberta or British Columbia.

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