Michigan says liquor retailers can use biometrics to card customers

Michigan says liquor retailers can use biometrics to card customers

The state of Michigan has updated its liquor laws to allow retailers to use biometrics to confirm a customer’s age.

Since long before Prohibition, the United States has had mixed feelings about alcohol. Most governmental bodies across the nation treat alcohol as a threat to their communities’ health, property value and morality.

That is why it is interesting to see communities slowly warm to the idea of adding automation to the process of buying and selling alcohol. Fingerprint and face scanners might make life harder for unscrupulous retailers, but it could also remove human judgment from a transaction that might lead someone to hardship.

Public Act 78 of 2020 does little more than let retailers use systems to weed out underage drinkers. It will not even force consumers to submit to a biometrics system; they will have the right to show an approved form of identification instead.

Likewise, the law has nothing to say when it comes to what systems can be used or what biometrics can be scanned. Nor does it mandate how the data can be stored, used, sold, traded or, indeed, when it must be surrendered to the police.

Several states, including Michigan, are considering ways to cement regulations around biometrics collection.

A bill introduced in the Michigan statehouse in 2017 is lost in committee limbo. The bill has similarities with Illinois’ landmark Biometric Information Privacy Act. It is possible that developments like biometric age verification will persuade lawmakers to kick the privacy bill out of committee.

In February, the 1st District Court of Appeal said Florida state law could not stop a company named La Galere Markets from selling wine and beer out of automated dispensing machines at its stores housed in residential buildings. La Galeres are small self-checkout stops specializing in “gourmet” goods. Assuming the decision is not appealed to a higher court, alcohol sales would be facilitated through the use of biometric data.

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