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Barlink use sparks privacy concerns
Julie Matthews
Global Edmonton

It may be an effective tool to cut down on violence at Edmonton nightclubs but some patrons are worried the barlink computer system may be compromising their personal information.

Like many of us, Abbey Ronneseth worries about her personal information falling into the wrong hands. 

But she worries she may be vulnerable to identity theft because of a computer system used at many Edmonton bars and nightclubs.

"I don't agree with it"

When Abbey and her friends visit a local bar the staff at the door scans her driver's license through a machine
Called Barlink

The system records and stores all of her information, including her name, birth date, and even her address. 

Abbey was shocked to learn the details of the scan.  She never gave anyone permission to keep her personal information and says bar goers should be told up front exactly how the system works.

"A lot of times they don't ask you. They take your ID and scan it.  I think it should be understood where that information is going and who gets a hold of that information."

The computer system was designed several years ago in conjunction with nightclubs at West Edmonton Mall to combat violence in the bars.

Your drivers's license is scanned. If you cause any problems your file is red flagged.  The next time you try to enter a bar with the Barlink system you likely won't be allowed in. Club owners and police say it keeps troublemakers out of the bar while still protecting your personal information.

Dean Parthenis with the Edmonton Police Service says, "Police have not been given any indication whatsoever that any information has been taken or misused."

Police say it works. And violence has gone down at local nightclubs since the system's introduction.

"It's a way of weeding out troublemakers," says Parthenis.

Barlink officials say nightclub staff do not have access to the information, only two barlink staff members who make sure all privacy legislation is adhered to. 

But if bar goers still have concerns, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner says they have a right to ask questions or go somewhere else.

"They have a responsibility under Alberta law to safeguard that information and inform their customers of why they're collecting it."

Abbey Ronneseth says bar staff need to work on make sure patrons know when they come in to party...their information will be protected.

Police say there are currently 150 people red flagged as troublemakers on the Barlink system.

If you want your information removed from the Barlink database you can contact the company's privacy officer at 780-405-1045 or e-mail  

You have a right to see any of your personal information that Barlink has on file.

© Global Edmonton 2004

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