There’s a lot of information about you on the back of your state-issued driver’s license or non-driver ID card, but does scanning your license or making a copy of it give potential identity thieves key information about you? It’s not easy to find out what data is encoded in the barcodes on the back of your ID cards, and your state’s motor vehicles department may not want you to know.
We use driver’s licenses as photo ID for everything from buying cold medicine or booze to boarding a plane, in addition to using them as proof that we’re legally permitted to drive.
Yet people often wonder what information is embedded in those barcodes, and consumer problem-solving columnist Karin Price Mueller of the Star-Ledger decided to find out. Lots of extensive reporting got her…well, she found out what one of the barcodes means, but what the other one contains is a mystery that mere mortals are not allowed to understand.
What the MVC, New Jersey’s motor vehicle agency, could tell her was that some of the data embedded on the back of your license is the same information that’s on the front of your license. There’s your name, birthdate, address, height, and weight. That’s to prevent people from altering the front of their license–say, the year of their birth. The other barcodes, though? We can’t know what information is encoded there for security reasons.
Bamboozled: What the bar codes on your driver’s license reveal about you, and why it matters [Newark Star-Ledger]

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Consumerist.