NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Selling Driver's License Photos

January 25, 1999

Officials in some states have begun selling driver's license photos. The buyer is Image Data LLC -- a small New Hampshire company that wants to build a national database of photos and personal information to help retailers prevent identity theft. The company's computers would flash a photo of the person named on a credit card or check to a small screen near a cash register when a transaction begins.

Privacy advocates are not pleased with the idea.

  • South Carolina has released 3.5 million digital photos in the past several months, according to reports.
  • Florida has started the process of transferring 14 million images in its files and other states have expressed interest in the scheme.
  • But officials and New Hampshire and Louisiana have firmly rejected overtures to sell their photos.
  • Image Data is buying the pictures for about a penny each.

Some retailers have voiced misgivings about using the service. They worry that loyal customers will be offended by the identification procedure.

One privacy advocate described the process as creating a "mug file of law-abiding citizens."

Source: Robert O'Harrow Jr., "Posing a Privacy Problem?" Washington Post, January 22, 1999.


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