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San Francisco considers requiring ID scans for most public events

By Stephen C. Webster
Tuesday, April 12, 2011 14:13 EDT
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The San Francisco Entertainment Commission was scheduled Tuesday to consider a proposal that would mandate ID scans for every person entering a “place of entertainment” attended by more than 100 people — a move that immediately sparked the fears of civil libertarians, who saw it as yet another encroachment of a creeping “police state” culture.

The commission said it would take up the proposal at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday evening, at their typical meeting place in San Francisco’s City Hall.

The proposal before members would also mandate that cameras be placed in event halls where they can be clearly seen by attendees. The systems would also need to be freely accessible to local, state and federal law enforcement on demand.

The rules make no mention of safeguards to protect the privacy of event patrons. They would instead require that scanned IDs and video footage from the venues shall be kept for “no less than 15 days” — meaning, they would be able to keep the information forever.

It would also mandate that all event attendees pass through a metal detector.

The Electronic Frontiers Foundation, a San Francisco-based privacy non-profit, warned that the rules would ultimately change the city’s culture and infringe on Americans’ civil liberties.

“Scanning the ID’s of all attendees at an anti-war rally, a gay night club, or a fundraiser for a civil liberties organization would have a deeply chilling effect on speech,” they cautioned in a Monday advisory. “Participants might hesitate to attend such events if their attendance were noted, stored, and made available on request to government authorities.

“This would transform the politically and culturally tolerant environment for which San Francisco is famous into a police state.”

A spokesman with the EFF was not available for comment.

Though it would likely affect anti-war rallies or other political gatherings, the rules would most directly impact event organizers like concert promoter Live Nation. A message left for the company’s corporate communications department received no reply.

The California Music and Culture Association said it was opposed to the proposal, which was initially pitched as a crackdown on nightclubs.

The proposal reads like an eerie echo of a warning imparted by Texas Republican state Rep. David Simpson, who told Raw Story last month that he expected a broader push for TSA-like security at football games and on sidewalks.

“This is not a left or right issue,” he said. “They are treating American citizens with great indignity, and we’ve got to make this right.”

Image credit: Flickr creative commons.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
 
 
 
 
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