Q&A on the news

Q: I was in a store and they scanned the bar code on the back of my Georgia driver's license to get my name and address. Does this code also contain anything an identity thief would want, such as driver’s license number, date of birth or a digital copy of my fingerprint? Is the code simply in an unencrypted format that anyone can read or did they acquire my information from the state? If the latter, do they have to undergo any security review or background check?

—Shane Roberts, Roswell

A: The bar code on the Georgia driver's license and ID cards produced after Nov. 30, 2009, contains the information printed on the front, which includes the individual's name, address, date of birth and physical attributes. To capture the data, businesses must have a bar code scanner that can read a PDF-417 bar code and software that will display the information. Anyone who scans and uses the information in the bar code must comply with state law, which makes it a misdemeanor to scan the driver's license or ID card without the card holder's knowledge and consent. If the person agrees to the scanning, "the information collected may be stored and used for any legitimate purpose," according to state law. Safeguards and proper procedures must be in place to comply with the law, according to the Georgia Department of Driver Services. The department no longer collects or stores fingerprints.

Lori Johnston wrote this column. Do you have a question about the news? We’ll try to get the answer. Call 404-222-2002 or e-mail q&a@ajc.com (include name, phone and city).