Being asked to show ID when purchasing a drink in a bar is not an unusual occurrence in North America; having your personal details and a demographic analysis provided back to you with your drink is. The Swipe installation, by Beatriz da Costa, Jamie Schulte, Brooke Singer, is a bar / security desk complete with scanner and interactive database.
Bars and convenience stores were the first to utilize license scanners in the name of age and ID verification. With the practice, these businesses can also build a valuable consumer database free of charge. Now hospitals and airports are installing license readers in the name of security.
Detailed database records, of course, also benefit law enforcement officers who can now demand this information without court order thanks to the US Patriot Act.
SWIPE enables people to see exactly what is stored on their mysterious strip, as many are unaware that personal data is even encoded on their license, and, if they do realize this, they probably do not know exactly what information is there.
The artists also developed a SWIPE toolkit allowing you to crack the 2D barcode on the backside of your license and an interactive map comparing the different types of information US states and Canadian provinces encode on drivers’ licenses based on Toolkit usage.
Swipe is currently at the Database Imaginary exhibition at the Banff centre in Canada. Works by 33 artists illustrate our relationship with the databases we have created to store and access information.