What does your driver’s license say about you?

This is a 2D bar code.

When I checked in at the Fort Lauderdale Marriott, the hotel clerk scanned my license. What did she learn? Retail stores, restaurants, and banks all want your driver’s license and frequently they don’t just stop there. Instead, they swipe it in a magnetic reader or optical scanner.

Here’s how to figure out what they learned. This procedure works for the iPhone and I presume that a similar app is available for Android (search for PDF417).

First, download the free Barcode Scanners app from Manatee Works from iTunes. Other bar code apps may not read the PDF417 and Code 128 bar code formats. PDF417 is the 2D format present on many driver’s licenses and Code 128 is a linear barcode. This app will read the barcode on the back of your license. Note, some states may encrypt driver’s license data.

For Minnesota, the coded information on my license included name, birth date, driver’s license number, and number of duplicates. Other states include significantly more data. See DECODE YOUR BARCODE: STATS PAGE (TABLE) for details on your state driver’s license information (I was not successful with the decoding program available from this site). I find it particularly scary that Delaware, Louisiana, New York, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee include social security numbers. Aren’t these states concerned about identity theft?

You may not be able to do anything about the information on your driver’s license, but at least you now know what is there.


About Mark Mizen

I have over twenty years professional experience in all aspects of photography and digital imaging. I am Chair of the ISO WG5 TG2 committee responsible for physical properties and durability of imaging material and am currently with HID Global working on systems for security printing for IDs, licenses, and credit cards. Previously, I was Director of Digital Development at Creative Memories from 2009 to 2012 and was responsible for the Creative Memories digital products and services. I also established and directed the Creative Memories Technology Center, which evaluated new products prior to product introduction, assisted with production difficulties, and provided technical information to support product sales.
This entry was posted in ID Cards, Security and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to What does your driver’s license say about you?

  1. Pingback: All about you « All About Images Blog

  2. David Hines says:

    I know for a fact that in Tennessee it your own personal choice to have your SSN on your license. I have even heard it repeated as a suggestion thwt it not be shown.

  3. Bob Hanks says:

    black out the barcode, and cover with clear tape. Then get a strong magnet and draw it across the magnetic strip one direction about ten times to mess up the encription codes… Cops only need to know your name and address from the front and the license number. Have a nice life… sheeple.

  4. Denis Petrov says:

    The data mention in this posting and table is obsolete. For instance, ALL 50 states carry 2D barcode pdf417 – last state to put a 2D barcode was Michigan – in March of 2011!

    For more up to date info please visit IDScan.net

  5. abbyleem says:

    I don’t know which barcode scanner can scan the pdf 417 on my driver’s license, which pdf 417 barcode scanner do you use? Any idea?

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