I read an article over the weekend that talked about some bouncers and doormen in the UK requesting people to show them their Facebook accounts on their smartphones as a means of verifying ID.
Defending the actions of bouncers, a bar owner from Folkstone told BBC Newsbeat that because convincing fake IDs are easy to obtain, “checking phones with consent is at least a more certain way.” Really? As if checking a person’s Facebook account on their phone somehow means everything that they have told you about their name and age is gospel?
The fact is, within minutes I could set up a Facebook account under feasibly any name I wanted and set my date of birth to make me older than any legal drinking age in the world. There’s no regulatory body that administers Facebook accounts in the same way that the DVLA and UK Home Office scrutinise the supply of a driver’s licence or a passport.
Also, a common Facebook prank upon finding that a friend has forgotten to sign out is to change their birthday to today, and watch with delight as the well-wishers start posting on that person’s wall in droves. So you don’t even have to create a new profile – just tweak your current one before you go out.
Some people who have been asked to show their phones are puzzled by the fact that they have legitimate ID, yet the bouncers aren’t happy with a driver’s licence or passport. 20 year-old Charlotte Neal had this to say:
“I thought, ‘Hang on, is this really how you’re supposed to check how old I am?’ But I was out and I wanted to get in the club so I just agreed… I do understand why they want to verify it, but at the same time if you’ve got an ID in front of you, why isn’t that good enough?”
Others to voice their concerns over this practice include Nick Pickles, from the campaign group Big Brother Watch, who said:
“Not only is it ridiculous from a security point of view, it’s an affront to the basic rights of people to be able to live their lives in private… If the problem is that people haven’t got good enough quality IDs, then let’s make sure they do have good enough quality IDs. This shouldn’t be an excuse for nightclubs to snoop and pry into people’s private lives.”
Have you ever been asked to show a Facebook account to prove your identity? Do you think that it is an effective method of verifying potentially fake IDs, or is it a breach of personal privacy?