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The End of Barwatch or Just the End of Barwatch as We Know it?

It’s official! BC’s Information and Privacy Commissioner, David Loukidelis, has ruled against Vancouver’s Barwatch Program and to cease the scanning of patron’s IDs as a condition for entering the establishments. The Commissioner Office, however, is leaving the door open for consultations with Barwatch.

There has been many debates for and against the Barwatch program. The arguments are either on side of Barwatch and that the program protects bar owners, staff, and patrons by filtering out the “bad guys”; the other side argues that this system is an invasion of personal privacy and violates our freedom of privacy as enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom. These rights to privacy include: 1) spatial privacy; 2) bodily privacy; and 3) informational privacy.

Those opposed expressed concerns of increased surveillance on citizens and consumers, identity theft, and personal security. Those who endorse the Barwatch program purport that it creates a safer environment for bar owners, staff, and patrons. The problem with the Barwatch program was that it was steadily spreading into other service sectors; pubs and restaurants were beginning to claim the same entitlement to scan patrons’ IDs. I admit, I boycotted places where they practice this, but to my disadvantage because I was quickly running out of establishments that I can visit.

Without the Commissioner’s ruling against this unlawful act, I am certain that we would find ID scanning implemented at the movie theaters, shopping malls, parks, schools, and so on. And why not? Danger lurks at every corner of public (and private) space. Parks are filled with potential child abductors, shootings in schools and malls… Why not digitally track and surveil every single person as they move through public space like in Spielberg’s Minority Report? Ultimately, with enough public cameras and digital tracking devices in every inch of daily life, we will begin to monitor ourselves and govern our own actions accordingly.

Alright, I should stop here before I go into surveillance theories of Panopticon, Orwell’s Big Brother state, and the sort. The bottom line? I am ecstatic to hear of this ruling. I can once again go out for drinks.

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1 Comment

  1. helen

    September 17, 2009

    I was literally pushed out the door when i refused to let them scan my id. that is so wrong! i am so glad this is all over now. what annoys me even more are the stupid club goers who think this is all okay and that ppl like us are just being difficult losers. they don’t even have the slightest clue about our concerns over privacy.

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