In the lastest example of Americans’ willingness to trade privacy for convenience, wine drinkers in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are purchasing bottles of wine from computerized vending machines. Were this simply a matter of putting your money in the machine, selecting the bottle of wine you wish to purchase, touching a button and then retrieving the bottle of fermented grape nectar that suits your palate, it would hardly be problematic. In fact, because Pennsylvania has some of the most complex and restrictive alcohol-purchasing laws in the country, it would be a great way to empower citizens to exercise what should be an un-fettered right to puchase whatever wine they want whenever they want.
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. In order to purchase that bottle of wine from the new, state-of-the-art electronic merchant in Pennsylvania, you have to not only pay for the wine, but also: (1) swipe your driver’s license, (2) submit to having the machine take your photo, and (3) blow into the machine so it can determine your blood alcohol level. Thus is created a record in a database accessible to, if not controlled by the government, linking your simple purchase of a bottle of wine to: (1) all the data contained in your driver’s license, (2) a digitized photograph of the person using the machine, and (3) the blood-alcohol level of that person at the date and time he or she bought the bottle of wine. If something is amiss in all that – even if a result of a mistake on the part of the machine — it will be a simple matter for the authorities to come after you.
Hopefully, the wine you will have purchased and preferably had the chance to enjoy, will have been worth the loss of privacy to which you consented at the time of purchase.