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Good Question: What’s On My License’s Magnetic Strip?

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – With all the talk of changing Minnesota law to require people to show an ID before they vote, some are proposing using an ID swiping system to verify that the voter is a legal one.

Our license gets swiped at some bars to prove we’re 21, at some stores when we make tax-exempt purchases. So what kind of information is being stored on that magnetic stripe?

“Everything that’s on the front, except the picture, is on the magnetic strip,” said Bruce Gordon, director of communications for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

Not very exciting, really. No criminal record information, no record of the times you’ve been pulled over and let off with a warning, no social security number.

“That’s it?” I asked. “0That’s it,” Gordon said.

Your name, address, height, weight, eye color, birth date, sex, license number and expiration date is all stored on that magnetic stripe.

That doesn’t mean that all that information would normally be public.

If you went to public safety and asked for the driver’s information that’s public for any given license – all you’d get is a zip code, physical description and whether the license is valid.

Under Minnesota law, your name, address, birth date, and driver’s license number are restricted. That information is available to police officers, court and government agencies, and — under limited circumstances — to insurance companies and new employers verifying information.

But when you hand over your license voluntarily, everything on the front, is on the strip, and all of that information can be gathered.

“You need to protect your driver’s license and private information the same way you’d protect credit card or any kind of information. You don’t want to give that to just anybody,” Gordon said.

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