Michael Fertik: San Francisco rethinks nightclub privacy

April 14th, 2011

This is a post by Michael Fertik, co-author of Wild West 2.0 and CEO and founder of Reputation.com.

Here’s one.  In an attempt to crack down on underage drinking and drunk violence in San Francisco (if you’ve ever been to North Beach on a weekend evening, you’ve probably seen one or both happen), the San Francisco Entertainment Commission (a city governmental agency that most people have never heard of) proposed new rules for nightclubs that would require large clubs to take high-resolution video of customers as they enter, and also keep a digital scan of each customer’s driver’s license.  Each club would have to store the videos and license scans for at least 15 days.

Predictably enough, the usual list of privacy organizations spoke out: the EFF, IP Justice, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Beat the Chip, and a list of other groups all raised the obvious privacy problems of a city requiring digital records of everyone who enters a nightclub.

The significance of civil rights and privacy in San Francisco was not lost on those who commented; it seems odd that San Francisco of all places would

The rules are being delayed for further study.

My takeaway: of course there was a privacy outrage… but why did it take so long?  Shouldn’t the Entertainment Commission have thought about the privacy concerns before proposing these rules?  What does it say about omnipresent digital surveillance?

– Michael Fertik

The views expressed here are those of the author alone and not those of his employers, clients, or any other person.