A convenience store giant is facing growing criticism in Alberta over its identification-scanning policy for certain items.
A number of 7-Eleven’s customers have reached out to Global News with concerns over having to hand over their government ID to be scanned in order to buy certain items.
Carl Spenard said he was surprised to be asked for his driver’s licence when recently buying lottery tickets.
“I was astounded,” he said. “She was like: ‘I have to scan your ID,’ that it was mandatory, and that everybody gets scanned.”
Spenard said he asked why it was mandatory, but was not given an answer besides that it was “policy.”
“They said it was new policy for lottery tickets and cigarettes. I basically said: ‘I don’t understand this. You can look at my ID and see that I’m over 18 (years of age).'”
7-Eleven does have the policy posted on the outside and inside of some of its convenience stores. It actually started scanning government-issued IDs a few years ago at various locations for adult-only purchases.
But Spenard said he’s never had to scan his ID before; he’s only shown it to the clerk. His biggest concern is data breaches and his personal information getting into the wrong hands.
“Anytime you scan government ID, it’s just always leery to me,” he said. “There’s always data breaches. It’s happened in the past.”
Cyber security expert and University of Calgary professor Tom Keenan agreed. Keenan told Global News even the best companies can fall victim to breaches.
“Companies don’t always have very good control,” he pointed out. “What if some employee makes a mistake? If it’s mishandled? That’s a problem.”
Keenan said companies have a right to ask for personal information and to ask that ID be shown, but he added the scanning of that ID isn’t necessary and companies shouldn’t have it — even if they don’t plan on keeping it.
“If they’re just throwing it away, if it’s just happening on the spot, that’s fine. But you always have to worry because things can go wrong.”
Global News reached out to 7-Eleven for a response to these concerns, but the company did not respond by the time this article was published. It did however send Spenard an email addressing his concerns.
In the email, obtained by Global News, a 7-Eleven spokesperson told him that the scanning is not mandatory and clerks have other options. He was also told not to worry about the data collected as “information is not held at store level.”
Finally, as to why it was scanning in the first place, 7-Eleven told him “the Alberta government is conducting regulated tobacco shops in our stores, and since stores have the scan capabilities, they’re (sic) recommendations is to utilize this procedures (sic).”
Global News asked the provincial government body responsible for gaming and liquor in Alberta if it did indeed recommend this to 7-Eleven, but a spokesperson for AGLC said it was “not involved with this initiative.”
“AGLC’s policy does require retailers to obtain valid identification and proof of age when a person appears to be under 25 years old, but does not outline how a retailer checks ID, only that it must,” the statement read.
It also suggested any Albertan with concerns contact the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta.