Today Breanna went to a tanning place in her hometown of Fayetteville, Arkansas to get a spray tan. The person asked to take an electronic scan of her thumbprint in order for her to be allowed to get her spray tan. Breanna, sensitive about her privacy being violated (rightly so) refused to allow them to make and permanently store an electronic scan of her thumbprint -- she isn't "joining a program" she simply wanted to purchase a single tan and have it applied at that time. When she refused, the woman was offended, saying "it's for our computer system" and when neither would budge, Breanna had no other choice but to leave.Well, that does it. If you value your biometric autonomy, brothers and sisters, shout it out with me: "Stick it to The Man! Don't Go to Arkansas to Tan!"
Now I heard this story and thought, no way, maybe she was mistaken, but no. I called myself just now to confirm:
WAYNE: "Hi, do you require a thumbrpint scan to get a tan there?"
TANNING BIMBO: "Yes, sir, we do."
WAYNE: "OK, let me see if I understand this correctly. Is there a state or local law that requires you do this?"
TANNING BIMBO: "No, sir, it's for our computer systems"
WAYNE: "So you want to breach people's right to privacy not because there is a state law that demands you take a thumbprint, but because it's a company policy?"
TANNING BIMBO: "Yes, that's right."
WAYNE: "So you don't see anything wrong in insisting that people give you a thumbprint -- a totally invasive request -- and possibly even an illegal one, just because your company says so."
TANNING BIMBO: "No, sir, our systems require it. We have fourteen locations and this is how we ensure that some one isn't using another person's tanning plan."
WAYNE: "Why would you need to take a thumbprint scan of a person coming in once, for one tan, and paying for that tan right then?
TANNING BIMBO: "Our systems require it."
WAYNE: "Thanks, I just wanted to get this all straight before contacting the media."
And then I hung up and wrote you this email. I think the Arkansas chapter of the ACLU and the Arkansas state attorney general's office need to be contacted... this stuff really gets me steamed.
3049 North College Avenue
Fayetteville, AR 72703
Then again -- maybe a "Trusted Tanner" program would solve this.
Reader comment: Philip J. Hollenback says:
My wife just started going to 'Hollywood Tans' in Manhattan. They also use the fingerprint biometrics. Maybe whatever company makes the tanning business software has made this a standard feature.
From a business standpoint, I see why they are doing this: this chain pushes you to sign up for unlimited tanning. For a fixed monthly price, you can tan as much as you want. The monthly price of $24.95 is actually pretty reasonable (As far as tanning salons go). Of course, they make you sign up for automatic monthly deductions from your credit card. Obviously they are trying to go the same route as gyms and capture as much income as possible, customer service be damned.
Anyway, if they are giving away all those free tans, they don't want your friends sneaking in as you. Thus, strong security. I'm sure their thinking was along the lines of, "well, we could use ID cards with photos, but we can't count on our employees to look at those".
I think this is a horrible business model and security practice. Unfortunately, I did not protest at the tanning salon and now live in constant fear that someone with a rich, full tan will cut off my finger to feed their habit some day.
Reader Ethan says:
If Wayne wants to stick it to the man, why didn't he get the name of the POS system which needed a finger print? Obviously a bunch of workers at a tanning salon care less about the backend system, and much like the maligned phone number debacle (wherein some people are very rude to workers who request a phone number to buy something at Radio Shack).... it seems that the problem lies with the POS system provider (some geek who thought it was cool to install a thumbprint scanner). I am sure that after the salon gets 1,000,000 calls from internet readers, they will back off.
Brilliant! Until the very end... Yes, go to the media. This is dumb and it should be held out for derision. But, please oh please, don't go to the ACLU or the state Attorney General. There is no law against making dumb, privacy-invasive requests and there's no civil right violated when a private business does so - even if it conditions its service on a dumb privacy invasion. Open and above-board stupidity is legal. And we should all thank heaven for that!
I have a little bit of confidence in the ACLU, but the state Attorney General will be all too happy to cobble together some bizarre notion that consumer protection law covers this. The power to cobble together new legal authority is one very likely to come around later and bite us in the proverbial ass. No, the solution is that consumers should refuse this bad deal. They shouldn't run to the authorities pleading to be cared for.
Reader Bob Thomas says:
I’m disgusted to say the regional fitness center I belong to, Fitworks, has started doing this as well. I went to the gym yesterday and there was a huge line of people at the counter. When I went to the counter to swipe my membership card, I noticed they were training people in the use of their new security system that requires the input of your thumb print. I’m going to call them later today and see what type of security they have on their network and what sort of non-disclosure policies they have, but it looks like I’ll probably have to change the gym I go to. I guess we can look forward to a future where all of these sorts of personal services clubs require the submission of biometric data.
Planet Tan in Dallas, TX requires the same thing. I went there once a couple years back, and had pretty much the same encounter.
"Express Tan" in Paris, Tennessee requires thumbprints, too.
Boing Boing editor/partner and tech culture journalist Xeni Jardin hosts and produces Boing Boing's in-flight TV channel on Virgin America airlines (#10 on the dial), and writes about living with breast cancer. Diagnosed in 2011. @xeni on Twitter. email: firstname.lastname@example.org.