ID scanners in use at Toronto’s only legal cannabis store are set to forget the information they scan, but are also designed to be able to build a customer database, their U.S.-based supplier says.
The first day that legal bricks-and-mortar stores opened in Ontario, some customers at the Hunny Pot found that employees were scanning their driver’s licences with a device .
“I have had some people advise me that, without their consent, the ID was scanned, and that was before being asked about any membership participation, or tracking for internal purposes,” said cannabis lawyer Caryma Sa’d. “That has been troubling to some people.”
Kate Johnny, a spokesperson for the store, said that the scanning was optional. However, she did not answer a follow-up question about whether customers had any way of being aware of that.
The scanners are meant to flag fake IDs and verify unusual IDs, like out-of-province driver’s licences, explains the device’s supplier. “We can basically take a picture of the back of the ID, suck in all that bar code information, validate whether it’s a valid ID, and whether the person is of age,” says Cova Software CEO Gary Cohen. “The whole screen turns red if it’s not valid, or green if it’s good.”
Cova, a Denver-based company, supplies IT services to Canadian and U.S. cannabis stores.
WATCH: Pot stores scanning ID raises privacy concerns The customers Sa’d talked to were using Ontario driver’s licences as ID, she says. She says the store scanned her ID, a Canadian passport.
The scanners were originally supplied to U.S. dispensaries that didn’t trust their employees to check birth dates properly, Cohen says.
“Our original thought was: You’re paying a guy at the door to check IDs – it seems like it’s pretty well handled. The feedback was, ‘We don’t trust our guys at the door. Unlike a bar or something else, our licence is on the line for this. It really rose to the level of ‘this is essential.’”
In the United States, medical dispensaries wanted to use the devices to call up a customer file as well, which is why they have that capability.
The scanners can verify all North American driver’s licences and non-driver IDs, but not health cards, Cohen says.
Johnny would not explain what data was collected by the Hunny Pot’s ID scanners, whether it is retained and how it is safeguarded, referring those questions to Cova.
READ MORE: Pot buyers’ data stored only in Canada: Ontario Cannabis Store
“There are two paths the owners can go through,” Cohen says. “They can preserve that information, and build a database of customers. However, we pre-set it to just scan the ID and let it go. So it does the ID scan but doesn’t build a record.” “Our default is that it doesn’t retain any information. But the owner has the capability to start building a customer database.” The Hunny Pot only stores information if the customer wants to create a profile, Johnny wrote.
WATCH: Pay for cannabis with cash instead of credit card, privacy commissioner urges All Canadian customer-related data is stored on servers in Canada, Cohen said. In the early days of legalization, PEI Cannabis used similar devices to check for fake IDs. They were quickly abandoned after they were found to be collecting and storing customer information, something the provincial retailer hadn’t been aware of when they started using them.
PEI Cannabis wasn’t using a scanner supplied by Cova, Cohen says.In most provinces, buying cannabis in person is far more inconvenient than buying it online – customers face long lineups at often faraway stores. READ MORE: Will your cannabis credit card purchases be […]
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