In this update to my prior post "I Am Not a Number" we will review the wiping of a drivers license magstripe to maintain your privacy. As I mentioned before, the practice of running licenses through card-readers at restaurants/bars/other should always be objected to strenuously, but the removal of magstripe info provides additional protection should the situation warrant it.

Supplies for my experiement:
Magstripe Card Reader from eBay (about $50)
Cheap Rare Earth Neodymium Magnets from Amazing Magnets ($4, or free with purchase)
My Driver's License

The experiment proceeded as follows: Did a test read of my license. Got a string of readable data including name, DL#, Address, etc. Took the largest of the magnet assortment (D125D 1/2" Dia x 1/8") and rubbed the magnet perpendicularly along the magstripe twice. I did this away from my computer. Did another test read of the license — no data. The reader would not read the license.

And that was it! Having read a lot of data on the web saying that high coercivity stripes were hard to wipe, I thought I'd need to buy a larger set of magnets, but it wasn't necessary. As you can see, the magnet used was very small (but these magnets are admittedly very strong).

That got me to thinking about the magnets we have hanging around the house. So, I asked a friend if I could wipe his license with one of the magnets we have on the fridge. These are the little button magnets that are commonly found on the back of LED pins and for other cute uses. So, I ran his license through the reader and verified his data. Then, as before, I rubbed the magnets crosswise across the stripe twice and ran it through again — wiped — no data.

So it looks like I didn't need to buy the Rare Earth magnets after all and could have used the little magnets on our fridge. Oh well — all in the cause of privacy science.

A few days later I wound up in my least-favorite big-box store returning some gifts. Since I didn't have a receipt, the associate asked me for my license. I provided. He swiped. Confused expression. Swiped again. Confused expression. Swiped again, slowly. Finally, he typed in my zip code and gave the refund. Such joy, such delight in keeping my data mine!





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