Personal Privacy and Casinos
Both the individual player and the blackjack team player are becoming
more and more concerned with protecting their respective personal privacies.
The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution assures us that:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers,
and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be
While convincing you to think twice before providing your favorite casino
with your personal information, it is first necessary to provide a crash-course
on how identity theft can affect you. Plus, earlier in the reading I promised
to discuss more on this topic.
The average citizen has been brainwashed into automatically turning over
a Driver's License whenever asked for a "Photo ID." Even worse,
persons requiring a form of "Photo ID" automatically ask the
average citizen for a Driver's License.
Are you one of the many who automatically give your Driver's License
to anyone who requests it? Congratulations. You've just joined the ranks
of the majority of Americans who are routinely giving unknown persons
a "License to Steal." Go ahead and call me paranoid, but open
your wallet and take a look at all that wonderful information on that
little harmless card called a Driver's License.
Your Driver's License has your name, home address, and date of birth.
Some states even include your social security number on the face of the
license. This one little card provides someone with all the tools necessary
to steal your identity.
Casinos and Identity Theft
The following concerns are not limited to casinos, but any business that
interfaces with the general public. One should be more concerned when
dealing with a casino, as there are not many other businesses where money
is tossed around so openly and freely. This, in itself, attracts a certain
type of thinking: theft.
You are standing in line, and a clerk asks for your Driver's License.
Did you notice the stranger with a larcenous mind standing nearby, and
clicking a photo with his camera phone?
What do you know about the clerk to whom you are giving the keys to your
privacy? Suppose this person leaves the company and is a disgruntled employee?Did
you think about the information accessible to such a person? Is it possible
that such an employee may have developed, or will soon develop, a drug
dependency and will be looking for ways to make a quick buck? Still want
to allow your personal information to be entered into a casino's database?
Casinos are famous for dangling the carrot in front of us. They offer
freebies for all levels of players who sign up for a "Players Card."
Most commonly, you are given an application card to fill out. In addition
to the standard name, address, and phone number request, among other things,
they may ask for your date of birth, social security number, anniversary
date, and maybe even your favorite sports. It has become the rule rather
than the exception in today's environment that in order to obtain a Players
Card, one must present a "Photo ID." This requirement varies
from casino-to-casino, so let's break down the term "Photo ID"
into three common categories:
- Any respectable-looking ID card with a name and photo that resembles
- A "Government-Issued" Photo ID Card.
- Your Driver's License.
From this point forward, do yourself a favor and never give your Driver's
License to anyone other than a Police Officer.
Category #1, above, gives you as the customer the most flexibility.
As an Advantage Player with a desire to stay anonymous, I would recommend
you surrender to the requirement of Category #2 above (thus giving up
some valid details) only in the event the place is offering something
that really makes it worth your while. One trick that is always worth
a try is to have the application card already filled out and to present
it along with a Photo ID as per Category #1 before they ask you for
their choice of ID.
A Government-Issued Photo ID is a broad enough category. It also gives
you more safety than that of strictly a Driver's License. A Passport does
not provide your home address or social security number. If forced into
a corner, a Passport is preferable to a Driver's License any day.
For those involved with a blackjack team, by providing personal information,
you make it easier for the casino to link you together with suspect teammates.
Remember the old saying, "There is no such thing as a free lunch."
Think about paying for your own meal before giving your personal information
to the casino in return for a comped buffet.
Let's look at all the tools casinos have to gather information on their
customers, along with some measures to minimize such intrusions:
The next time you are in a casino, take a survey of the number of visible
cameras mounted on the ceiling. You can easily identify these black plastic
bubbles. A well-established surveillance and security set-up has cameras
mounted in a manner where no blind spots exist. The only places cameras
are not permitted by law are in hotel guest rooms and restrooms. A patron
must work with the assumption that every move will be filmed and can be
maintained on a video tape. The capabilities of these cameras are impressive.
In addition to fixed cameras, which are set to film the ongoing activities
of a specific area, the pan, tilt, and zoom functions of additional cameras
permit the individual to follow a patron throughout the casino and obtain
many precise details as a result. One example is where a camera can actually
pick up a phone number dialed from one's cell phone. It can also read
a number from the LCD screen of a cell phone. Lip readers anyone?
To cut down on the quality of video surveillance here are some countermeasures
you, as a patron can apply:
- Do your advance work and know the locations of the visible cameras.
- Wear reflective jewelry to distort the quality of the filming.
- Never look up directly at the cameras.
- When cashing out chips at the casino cashier cage, subtly look away
from the fixed camera. This is where the casino has the best opportunity
to get a clear face shot of you. It is your job to make it difficult
- Try to avoid cell phone usage in the casino. In the event you need
to make a phone call, use speed-dial and cover the LCD screen so the
number on the screen is not visible to an overhead camera.
- If speaking on a phone (cell and pay phone) cover your mouth or face
a camera-free wall to prevent a lip-reader from reviewing your conversation
on video tape.
- Establish walking paths where you pass a minimum number of cameras.
Facial recognition systems are computer programs that are supposed to
enable the user to create possible matches from a live camera feed, saved
camera footage, or a still photograph to that which may be maintained
in an existing database. These systems are based on an algorithm, with
the "eigenface" being one of the most common. The facial recognition
system captures a facial image, blocking such image from its other surroundings.
It then converts the captured photograph to a digital image, and measures
various points on the face, comparing the results of the two, to arrive
at possible matches, which are sorted by a score. Some of the areas compared
are the distance between the eyes, head shape, and other facial bone structures.
Experts have pointed out flaws in these systems, which reveal they are
not very reliable. I personally had the opportunity to toy around with
one of these products and found very simple ways even a first-grader can
throw the system off. The sellers of such systems boast how the system
can get an accurate read even if a subject is wearing eyeglasses. This
is not the case. Certain variables need to be present to increase the
accuracy of the system. First, the actual angle of the face, as it is
captured in a photographic image, is crucial. Take lighting conditions
and background glare into consideration, and you have even less accuracy.
Now these products can prove useful in certain situations, and in controlled
environments. For example, if you are a company that requires employees
to be photographed, you control the environment (angle, lighting, etc.).
When applied in this manner, you increase the effectiveness of the facial
recognition product. When an individual is required to stop before entering
a designated area, you control the environment. Examples are airports,
where this product could be of great value in our continued battle against
Two of the leading companies who provide the casino industry with facial
recognition products are:
296 Concord Road, Third Floor
Billerica, Massachusetts 01821
Phone: (978) 932-2200
E-mail: [email protected]
Their website is: www.viisage.com
5600 Rowland Road
Minnetonka, MN 55343
Phone (952) 932-0888
Their website is: www.identix.com