Selective disclosure matters in all contexts

We recently presented one of our card overlays to a bartender at the U of T downtown campus. He said that he would not accept an ID with an overlay on it. When we asked why, he replied, “because I need to know who you are.” But this answer is deficient because the bartender should not need to know who the patron is. Rather, they should only need to compare the patron’s face to the photograph on the ID card and check the date of birth. (OPC, 2008)

When we told the bartender that the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA) generally discourages the presentation of a health card outside of health resource centers (e.g. doctor’s office, walk-in clinic), he replied, “so you think a bartender is going to be interested in your health number?”

It is true that the likelihood of a bartender memorizing a patron’s health card number and then using that information maliciously is very low indeed. But this nonchalant attitude toward the unnecessary presentation of personal information conveyed by the bartender’s flippant question is exactly the sort of societal problem that the Prop-ID project hopes to address. We think that there is a social value in being selective about the presentation of personal information not only in contexts where it clearly might be abused, but also in more seemingly benign contexts. Developing a general awareness of this principle and applying it wherever one goes is better than assuming that it only matters in the context of obvious data collection.