Later today, the San Francisco Entertainment Commission will consider adopting new security rules at nightclubs and onetime events in San Francisco. Among reasonable security measures, like sufficient exterior lighting, a few rules have caused a stir -- specifically, ID scanning and face recording. This has prompted PrivacyActivism, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, IP Justice, Beat the Chip, Center for Financial Privacy and Human Rights, Patient Privacy Rights, and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee to publicly oppose [doc] the SF Entertainment Commission.

The rules in question are:

3) All occupants of the premises shall be ID Scanned (including patrons, promoters, and performers, etc.). ID scanning data shall be maintained on a data storage system for no less than 15 days and shall be made available to local law enforcement upon request.

4) High visibility cameras shall be located at each entrance and exit point of the premises. Said cameras shall maintain a recorded data base for no less than fifteen (15 days) and made available to local law enforcement upon request.

Electronic Frontier Foundation, an international non-profit digital rights advocacy and legal organization, had this to say about the new rules:

The city of San Francisco has a long history of political activism and cultural diversity, which could be in danger if the San Francisco Entertainment Commission has their way. The Electronic Frontier Foundation joined civil liberties and privacy groups in criticizing a proposal from the San Francisco Entertainment Commission that would require all venues with an occupancy of over 100 people to record the faces of all patrons and employees and scan their ID’s for storage in a database which they must hand over to law enforcement on request. If adopted, these rules would pose a grave threat to the rights of freedom of association, due process, and privacy in San Francisco.


Events with strong cultural, ideological, and political components are frequently held at venues that would be affected by these rules. 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. 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.

Furthermore, these new rules could make it more expensive for nightclubs and promoters to hold events.

Tonight at SF City Hall, a hearing will be held in Room 400 at 6:30 p.m. to hear the proposal. Those who wish to express their thoughts or make public make public comment are encouraged at attend.