May 4, 2012 at 1:06 PM ET
Here in the United States, legislators push bills to prevent employers from demanding their employees' Facebook passwords, while others OK a controversial cybersecurity bill that would allow feds access to your profile without judicial oversight. Indeed, having a Facebook profile is getting all kinds of complicated here in the U.S., where at least one district court recently ruled the Facebook "Like" doesn't count as free speech.
It could be worse, however. You could live in the United Kingdom, where your Facebook profile might get in the way of your drinking, the BBC reports. Rogue bouncers in the UK are demanding nightclub patrons hand over their smartphones at the door so their Facebook profiles can be compared with possibly fake IDs:
It happened to Charlotte Neal, 20, who said there had been a few times where bouncers had asked to see her phone. Charlotte said bouncers had checked that her Facebook name matched her driving license.
"I kind of just logged onto it [Facebook] and showed him the screen and then he didn't question it any further," explained Charlotte.
"When it happened the first time I didn't really think anything of it. "Then 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."
Given the notoriously spotty AT&T coverage here in New York City, club patrons could spend half the night in line as iPhone after iPhone attempts to load Facebook. *shudder* That's bad for drinking and bad for the economy.
So it was with a sigh of relief that I learned via Michael Evans, CEO of the NYC-based USPA Nationwide Security, that no, Facebook is not how bouncers are supposed to check how old Charlotte, or any other club patron is, at least here in the U.S. He doubts it's standard practice in the UK either.
"There's not anything on a Facebook page that would help us verify someone's identity," Evans said. He should know -- his firm specializes in all manner of security, from bodyguards to bouncers. Club security under USPA's employ use TeleCheck, a scanning service which confirms an ID's validity by scanning the bar code, Evans said. It's far more reliable than Facebook.
"Anyone can make a Facebook page using anyone's photo and match it to an ID. And that's not going to hold up on court," he said.
Depending on the state, bars — and even bartenders who serve the underage patrons — face hefty fines and/or criminal charges. The UK, where the drinking age is 18, has similar fines, so it's just not good business sense. "I have a feeling it's not any business that's using Facebook," Evans hypothesized. "It's probably security guards on their own trying to be innovative."
True enough, the BBC says it was contacted by several nightclub doormen defending the Facebook confirmation practice. "I believe the fine for letting in an underage person is £5,000," one nightclub doorman told the BBC. "Why is it so wrong for people to have to prove the ID is actually them? If you're not doing anything wrong you shouldn't have a problem."
Hmmm … that "If you're not doing anything wrong you shouldn't have a problem" argument sure comes up a lot when people are talking about Facebook and (lack of) privacy. Here it fails for the very obvious reason that people lie on the Internet, and that includes on Facebook.
Studies show plenty of parents let their kids lie about their age to join Facebook, which requires members to be 13 or older. If Facebook ID verification were to become standard practice, a lied-about age on a profile could actually backfire, and make a real ID look fake. All it takes is one bouncer demanding a driver's license/Facebook comparison and bam! That's you, not getting into the club.
For the good of the U.S., lets hope this trend never hops the pond.