San Francisco's Entertainment Commission has proposed that all bars, clubs, and venues should be required to photograph and collect ID from everyone who comes in for a drink or a show. The photos and personal information would be retained so that police could get a list of every person who was in the club on any given night. Leaving aside the (obvious) fourth amendment issues inherent in governments collecting massive databases of presumed-innocent people's lawful activities and movements, this is also a security nightmare, in which thousands of club staff and their friends would have access to personal information that would be of great interest to stalkers, creeps and identity thieves.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation will present their critique of this proposal to the Commission at a public meeting tonight (April 12). You can also attend and let the Commission know what you think.
Events with strong cultural, ideological, and political components are frequently held at venues that would be affected by these rules. Scanning the ID's of all attendees at an anti-war rally, a gay night club, or a fundraiser for a civil liberties organization would have a deeply chilling effect on speech. Participants might hesitate to attend such events if their attendance were noted, stored, and made available on request to government authorities. This would transform the politically and culturally tolerant environment for which San Francisco is famous into a police state.
We are deeply disappointed in the San Francisco Entertainment Commission for considering such troubling, authoritarian, and poorly thought-out rules. The Commission should reject this attack on our most basic civil liberties. San Francisco cannot hope to remain a hub of cultural and political activity if we are stripped of our civil liberties the moment we walk through the door of a venue.
(Image: Demonstration in Albert Square during the 1912 General Strike, Brisbane Police and 'Specials' in Albert Square, Wikimedia Commons/John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland)