NY considering facial recognition for ‘card’ for alcohol, cigarettes

This could be a real blow to the fake ID market.

The New York State Senate is moving forward with a bill that would allow bars and restaurants to use facial recognition or fingerprint scanners to verify a person’s age before buy alcohol, tobacco or electronic cigarettes.

“This is the new frontier of age verification,” said Sen. James Skoufis, who is sponsoring the biometrics bill. “It advances convenience interests.”

Skoufis envisions bars and restaurants could scan the fingerprints, faces or retinas of customers who want to save themselves the trouble of showing ID when returning to an establishment in the future. The proposed legislation requires all data to be encrypted and prohibits companies from selling biometric data to third parties.

“No one is forced to engage with this technology, but they would have a choice,” Skoufis said. “There is no big brother involved.”

Skoufis, who chairs the Investigations and Government Operations Committee, said he expects his committee to send the proposal to the full Senate on Monday. There are currently no sponsors in the Assembly, although Skoufis said several members have expressed interest.

State lawmakers are due to adjourn for the year on June 2.

State Sen. James Skoufis argued there was “no big brother involved” in allowing companies to use technology to verify purchases.
Ricky Flores and Peter Carr/The Journal News

Washington state approved a similar proposal in 2018, which allows spectators at professional sporting events to pass security and buy concessions with their fingerprints.

The legislative language states that the State Liquor Authority and the State Department of Health would be responsible for making regulations controlling the recording and maintenance of biometric data, which the bill says must be “stored in a centralised, highly secure and encrypted biometric data”.

Expanding use of biometrics means privacy risks for New Yorkers, according to Albert Fox Cahn, visiting scholar at Yale Law School and executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project. And unlike a credit card number or a driver’s license, biometrics can never be changed, he added.

“It’s a horrible invitation to identity theft,” he said. “If a bar or restaurant is hacked, our identities are compromised for the rest of our lives…more biometric data potentially extends the power of government agencies to track us, as this data will only be a court order away. be transformed into a police tool.

Skoufis responded to criticism by reiterating that no business or customer is forced to use biometrics if they don’t want to. His proposal simply gives them the choice to try a technology that is increasingly part of everyday life.

Amazon uses palm readers to verify identities in grocery stores. If the state legislature approves Skoufis’ bill, New Yorkers in a hurry might even buy a little time by buying a drink or a smoke as soon as possible.

Cigarettes displayed on a store shelf in New York.
Yale Law School member Albert Fox Cahn criticized Albany’s legislation for creating a risk of “identity theft.”
AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

“If anyone has concerns about privacy, there is a simple solution: don’t use the technology,” Skoufis said in a text. “I’d rather embrace innovation and give people a choice than stick my head in the sand and wish I was back in the Middle Ages.”

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