Facebook is evil, or How your driver’s license betrays you at the grocery store

Recently there was a lot of hoopla about how Facebook is evil for the permissions they require in their new messaging application. That was idiotic in the grand scheme since the main Facebook application requires the same permissions and that any similar program (Snapchat, Vine, WhatsApp, etc.) will require the same permissions to send and receive messages, make calls or videos and more. The only reason I can figure this was such a viral hit is that it is from Facebook and that they are busting messaging out into its own application.

From a corporate standpoint this move is brilliant and a can’t-lose proposition. This will make their application a stand alone messaging platform so that even if you don’t keep the main program on your phone this little guy can serve as your messaging service. They can then directly compete with WhatsApp, Snapchat, and other messaging programs that have become quite popular recently. Even if this doesn’t take off or compete as well as they would like it to, they can fold it back into the main application and nothing is lost from their standpoint. Brilliant.

Recently we moved much closer to the metro area (STL) and when we bought a bottle of wine at Target they asked for my driver’s license. That’s not so unusual even though I’m obviously over 21. Stores in our rural home would often do the same thing to comply with store policy or as a spot check. What made it weird was when the cashier didn’t even look at my license but instead scanned the barcode on the back. I then realized that barcode must contain my date of birth to prove I wasn’t a fake old man with a kid in a suit. From that point it stuck in my head to find out what information those barcodes contain, but I never took the time to look it up until tonight (delayed posts are wonderful).

I have to say that my eyes are now open. There are three barcodes on an Illinois license – license number, ‘document number’, and the mystery barcode that looks like a 3D barcode with a bunch of tiny dots in a strip. The last barcode was the one Target was interested in scanning and now I understand why. That barcode contains everything that the front of your license shows. Name, address, weight, height, license number, date of birth, county of residence, date issued, date expired, and even if you’re an organ donor.

So what? Well, mostly nothing because all of that same information is in human-readable form on the front of your license. What makes this captured information especially tasty to corporations and marketers is that they now know your name, address, age, and all of the rest so that they can market to you and learn what you buy. Maybe you think you will foil their system and only buy booze in the transaction so they don’t know all of your other information. Nice plan, but when you first checked out with your debit card and/or credit card without wondering what information they took your information is now linked to that card or cards. Since most people only use one to three cards on average they can now track everything you ever buy and how often you visit. Even better if your household has a couple of people in it they can cross-check the addresses and learn your family unit, how many kids you have, how much your pets eat and more.

Look, I am not stupid enough to think that we can avoid any form of tracking, marketing, etc. but that doesn’t mean I have to lay back and take it. To that end they won’t be scanning my license any longer and I’ll be asking my bank for a new debit card. They can have the information I want to give them when they ask and I decide to give it. until then they don’t need my details nor should they be selling my information to marketers. You do realize they sell and trade all of our information, right? Again, I know it happens, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

At the very least I want to stay out of these data warehouses because they are an information thief’s wet dream. Everyone gets up in arms about a messaging application that does nothing new, but they don’t pay attention to the thievery right in front of them.

In case you’re wondering, anyone can read this information using a free app. Go get it and check for yourself. PDF417 on Google Play.