Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/04/27/id_scan/

Anonymity proves grey area for IDScan

Redacted 'fake' card details exposed on website

By Jane Fae Ozimek

Posted in Law, 27th April 2009 11:07 GMT

Security software provider IDScan has been left red-faced after a page of supposedly anonymous details of ID cheats on its website turned out not to have been anonymised after all.

IDScan have developed a range of products designed to assist retailers and licensed premises in complying with laws that aim to regulate the sale of certain products – knives, cigarettes, alcohol – to the underage.

To illustrate the difficulty of carrying out this task, their site features a spread of novelty IDs. Strictly speaking, novelty IDs are designed by independent companies, are legal to buy and produce but may be illegal if used to misrepresent your age and status. These are not quite the same as fake IDs, which are exact copies of existing ID cards – although several of the cards featured by IDScan would appear to be fake rather than novelty.

To protect the anonymity of the individuals depicted, IDScan has helpfully left their photos visible but greyed out their names and, in a couple of cases, address details.

Unfortunately, as the page was created in acrobat, it is but a moment's work for anyone with a little technical expertise to remove the grey and to expose personal details.

This is perhaps not quite what the company intends when it claims that one of its key objectives is to protect children from harm.

MD Tamlyn Thompson commented: "For the most part, these are fictitious documents, and the details provided will be false too. Against that, you must remember that the penalties for retailers and licensees taken in by such documents are severe."

While we have little doubt that the offending page (pdf) will be gone very shortly, El Reg will be holding on to its own copy of the original for posterity.

This sort of mistake is not uncommon. A couple of years back, we were amazed – and amused – when a reader alerted us to a supposedly secret document published online by the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority.

Unfortunately a quirk of the software used to read the pdf document meant that all the top secret stuff that was supposed to have been greyed out was still perfectly readable. ®