Province scraps LCBO controlled-entrance pilot program at six Northern Ontario stores

A plan to ask customers to show identification before being allowed to enter six LCBO stores in Northern Ontario is being scrapped immediately after “serious concerns” arose, says a spokesperson for the province’s Minister of Finance.

On Feb. 13, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario announced the launch of a 12-month pilot project that would have required any customer who appeared to be at least 17 years of age to present photo identification to security before being allowed to enter four of its stores in Thunder Bay as well as one each in Kenora and Sioux Lookout.

The government-owned corporation said that IDs would then been scanned to ensure they were legitimate and valid.

But less than a day after being announced, a spokesperson for Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy said that the program is being called off.

“Over the past 24 hours, I have heard serious concerns about the LCBO’s newly announced pilot program. I’ve directed the LCBO to cancel it immediately,” Colin Blachar said in a written statement provided to CTV News Toronto.

“Where there are safety concerns, LCBO will continue to work with its community partners to explore alternatives to ensure the safety of its customers and employees.”

Bethlenfalvy, who also serves as the MPP for Pickering-Uxbridge MPP, was not immediately available for a follow-up interview.

The LCBO, meanwhile, previously said that the pilot program was being launched in an effort to combat retail theft.

It also said that the locations were chosen because their “contained geography allows us to measure the effectiveness of the controlled entrances without the transference of theft to other stores.”

The government has not said exactly why the program is being cancelled, but in a statement provided to CP24.com the executive director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said that they viewed it “as a sweeping violation of individual privacy.”

“They had planned mass data collection of every adult that entered certain LCBO stores – and all that data would get turned over to police in the event of an incident in that store,” Noa Mendelsohn Aviv said.

Ann Cavoukian

During an interview with CTV News Toronto on Wednesday afternoon, former Ontario Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian said that it “makes no sense” to her that the LCBO or any establishment, for that matter, wants to keep track of who is coming in and out of their premises.

“Why are they scanning your ID? Your ID, it’s very personal information and no one should have access to who’s entering the premises and what times of day, etcetera,” she said.

And while the LCBO did not indicate that it intended to use that data to track what customers were purchasing and when, Cavoukian wasn’t convinced that wouldn’t occur and that this personal information wouldn’t be shared with third parties.

“So personal identifiers, my personal identifiers will be linked with whatever purchases I make for wine or alcohol or whatever. And how dare they, I mean, they have no right to have my personal information associated with these purchases,” she said.

“Privacy is all about control. It’s about personal control over the use of disclosure of your data and obviously you have no control whatsoever in this scenario.”

Cavoukian went on to say that scanning customers’ personal identification is not the answer to preventing thefts, as the LCBO was implying.

“If there’s thefts in in the particular store, then make sure you have a guard or someone watching the door and the purchases and things of that nature. Of course you have the right to keep an eye on who’s, you know, taking, stealing things from your store, but there’s many ways to do that – not involving collecting personal identifiers when you’re about to enter the store, etcetera,” she said.

“So it makes no sense to me. Get a guard to, you know, keep an eye on these things, don’t extract people’s personally identifiable data.”

She also said that the LBCO’s plan wasn’t well thought out.

“I can’t imagine that they consulted with the government or with the Privacy Commissioner’s Office, for example, which would be an obvious place to start,” Cavoukian said.

“And so it was probably just somebody’s idea and they thought, ‘Well, we’re going to do this. It’s a great thing to do and we’ll see. We’ll see what, who’s coming in the door and what particular time of day,’”

Further, the province’s former privacy commissioner questioned the LCBO’s ability to protect the information it planned to collect.

“I’m sure they haven’t thought this through at all,” she said.

“Thank God the government has stepped in and said, ‘Forget it LCBO, you’re not doing this’.”

For is part, the LCBO said in a statement that it remains committed to “working collaboratively on additional measures to reduce shop theft and violent incidents in our stores and to ensuring safe experiences for our customers and employees.”

With files from CTV News Toronto’s Siobhan Morris.

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