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UK Police Implement Roadside Fingerprinting Tools 191

mormop writes to tell us the BBC is reporting that police in the UK have implemented a pilot program that allows officers to fingerprint drivers using a small handheld scanner connected to a database of approximately 6.5 million prints. From the article: "Officers promise prints will not be kept on file but concerns have been raised about civil liberties. [...] It is primarily aimed at motorists because banned or uninsured drivers often give false names, although pedestrians could also be asked to give prints if they are suspected to have committed an offence."
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UK Police Implement Roadside Fingerprinting Tools

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  • by dave420 ( 699308 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @01:47PM (#16953322)
    We have drivers licenses, but we're not required to have it at any time. We are given a grace period in which to produce our details at your local Police station. Forcing everyone to have their ID at the same time will just turn all those who forget their IDs into criminals - as opposed to just those who lie when asked their details. "Papers, please!"
  • function-creep (Score:4, Insightful)

    by brainburger ( 792239 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @01:50PM (#16953396)
    Hmmm this isn't good. I wonder if they will simply record the prints for checking against a db later, or if they have wireless abilities to check for a match at the scene? If they don't then they soon will.
    That technology would be very likely to be subject to function-creep. I could imagine a lot of situations where it might be argued that on-the-spot print-matching would protect 'us', from age-checks when buying alcohol, to entitlement to emergency medical care, and more.
    I am afraid that way too many people will cheerfully abandon privacy if they think it will save them in tax.
    Not that I am paranoid, or anything.
  • by cucucu ( 953756 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @01:52PM (#16953442)
    I think the privacy game will soon be over, and the winner will be your government.

    It is only a matter of time until a suitable technology arises that can accurately verify identities in a non intrusive way.
    For example:
    • Using advanced optics and image recognition to do retina recognition from afar
    • Recognizing your bone structure from afar - without radiation.

    Everybody knows that the one who does the technological breakthrough will be very rich - it is only a matter of time. Then we human beings will be exactly like cars- with an (invisible) license plate.
  • by AltGrendel ( 175092 ) <ag-slashdot&exit0,us> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @01:53PM (#16953472) Homepage
    In the UK they have or will have:
    • 360 helmet cams for police.
    • RFID tags in department stores
    • Video surveillance on most streets
    • "Smart" passports
    • and now this

    There also was that street fee thing, but I forget what that was all about. Sounds like the beginnings of a police state to me.

  • Re:Probable cause (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Who235 ( 959706 ) <> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @01:57PM (#16953570)
    Yeah, but don't worry.
    Officers promise prints will not be kept on file

    See? They promise not to abuse their power, so it's all okey-dokey. They won't put all your information in a huge database and track your every move until the day you lie deep in the cold, cold ground and are no longer a threat.
    In the US the police need "probable cause" but they usually just make that up if you object to a search or some other privacy infringing action.

    Probable cause? What a quaint, old-fashioned notion! Today, if you really piss them off, they can just call you an enemy combatant and disappear your ass to Gitmo. You can talk to your extreme renditioner "Mr Smith" about probable cause all day long while he's making you think you're going to drown and hooking your nuts up to a car battery. Don't fret, though. If you haven't done anything wrong, then you don't have anything to worry about. Just sit back, relax, and watch your rights sail out the window like everyone else's while we band together to bring those big bad terrorists, immigrants, uninsured motorists, pedophiles, deadbeat dads, and jaywalkers to justice.

    Jebus, people. This is really getting out of control.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @01:58PM (#16953582)
    In Britain there is currently no need to carry any identification on you.

    If you are stopped by the Police whilst driving, you can be required to produce your documents (Driving Licence, Insurance & MOT) at a Police Station within seven days. Only newer Driving Licences have photographs.

    If you are stopped by the Police you will be asked your name, address and date of birth.
  • by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @01:59PM (#16953624) Homepage Journal
    They'll just invent some form of "implied consent" just like they do when you're driving a car.

    Eventually it's going to get to the point where just by walking out of your house in the morning, you're going to automatically "consent" to being fingerprinted, having your DNA sequenced, your retinas scanned, and your anus probed; and if you don't, they'll invent some sort of punishment for noncompliance. Or just Mace the hell out of you and do it anyway.

    Sure, they'll say, you don't have to consent -- you can just live inside your house 24/7. Just like, theoretically, you can walk everywhere instead of driving a car. By creating a totally impractical straw man, they allow you a "choice" to give up your rights, only without any other realistic option.
  • by IIH ( 33751 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @02:02PM (#16953696)

    Isn't this what a Driver's License is for? Or do British not have licenses (or not require that drivers carry licenses)?

    No, you aren't required to carry it with you, but are supposed to produce it on request within a certain number of days.

    However, it is clear to me that this is aimed at forcing the adoption of biometric ID cards (or more accurately the ID database behind it), just in smaller steps.

    1. First it will only be used for those without their licence on them. (for reasons given)
    2. Then it will be used to verify they are the person in the licence (pictures can be faked, gotta check your biometrics, sir).
    3. Then as a result of 1 and 2 above, they already have biometrics of most people on file, so the database is mostly complete.
    4. Biometric ID cards introduced (usual reasons given) - "not compulsary" you know)
    5. We have everyones's biometrics, so send them a card whether they requested it or not (we have the data, we're being nice and making it easy for them)
    6. Then, then most people have biometric id cards, make them a legal requirement (everyone has them, and it "stops crime/bad guys")
    7. Viola.

    In short this is step one of the "Barcode Britain" process.

    A parallel step is happening in 2008, where non-EU nationals in the UK will require an ID card to receive several services [], but eu people won't, but the obvious question is how will someone prove they are an eu nationals? Result - forcing people to get an ID card in order so they don't need to show ID card. Only a government can think that twisted!

  • Re:Probable cause (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ElephanTS ( 624421 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @02:14PM (#16953940)
    Jebus, people. This is really getting out of control.

    I know. But like the frog slowly being brought to boil not enough people will get this until it is too late. Heck, it probably is too late already. I worry all the time about this and although the majority of people I know and work with agree to some extent nobody is really in a position to do anything about it. Who wants to stick their neck out and maybe get arrested and banned from travelling for instance?

    Conclusion: we're screwed and it will only get worse.

    PS: As a typical /. guy I love all the technology but if it's used to enslave mankind to the machine no amount of blue LEDs is gonna make up for it.
  • by edraven ( 45764 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @02:29PM (#16954312)
    If they don't retain fingerprint data, just what exactly are they matching the drivers' fingerprints to?
  • by operagost ( 62405 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @02:40PM (#16954526) Homepage Journal
    I don't see how requiring proof that you are a licensed motor vehicle operator while operating a motor vehicle is a gestapo tactic. Requiring proof of identification when you are not operating a dangerous, fast moving piece of metal, certainly could be.
  • by IIH ( 33751 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @03:19PM (#16955322)

    If they don't retain fingerprint data, just what exactly are they matching the drivers' fingerprints to?

    If they don't have your print, they can't check it's you, but they can run it against ever fingerprint every taken (about 6.5m at the moment) and if you are unluckly enough to match someone who has committed a crime, you're toasted until you can prove you're not them (at which stage why not put your unique prints so this doesn't happen again, sir?

    The article says it's 95% accurate, so if your prints are on file, you're very likely to be correctly matched, but if not, you'll clash with a *lot* of other people - 300,000 if the 95% is accurate. (I'd guess fingerprints themselves may be more unique than this, but accuracy depends on the measurement used, obviously)

    Of course, even if that was not the case, precedent has shown that these prints will be kept. The exact same thing happened with taking DNA samples from innocent people. the police weren't allowed to retain them, but they did. When that came to light, did the samples get destroyed? Did they hell. The government changed the law retroactivitely allowing the people to keep the DNA of innocent people on file, even those who volunteered it for a good cause and were told it would be destroyed.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @04:00PM (#16956094)
    The parent is correct. However, I would add that "implied consent" is a euphemism for "mandatory consent", which is an oxymoron. That is, you can't just say "Oh, I realize that my actions *implied* consent, but I'm going to clear that up by explicitely stating that I do not consent." So terms like 'implied' or 'tacit' aren't really applicable. Compliance is simply required by the state on pain of imprisonment, fine, or loss of freedom of travel. There's really no consent involved.
  • Re:Probable cause (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Who235 ( 959706 ) <> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @05:26PM (#16957404)
    I was being wry.

    The point is this - of course pedophiles and terrorists are bad. Real pedophiles and terrorists that is, not the spectres of terrorism and pedophilia that are held up and shaken around in front of your eyes as boogeymen of the week to keep you in line.

    If you really think any of the thinly disguised rights-grabbing that's going on these days has anything to do with actual threats - brother, you have got some waking up to do.
  • by smoker2 ( 750216 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @05:32PM (#16957504) Homepage Journal
    I don't see the need for any of this at all.

    The police already have access to all the information they need regarding vehicles and ownership. They have computerised records that show whether a vehicle is insured and by whom.
    Those records also show whether the vehicle has an MOT.

    The registered keeper is also part of the same record. If you doubt the insurance claims I just made, go here [] and follow the link to "How do we check Insurance,new style MOT Test Certificates and GVT Test Certificates?" (sorry no link - session id crap)- all you need is a number from the V5 and a number from the MOT certificate, nothing insurance related at all. If you tax the car in a post office you need a valid insurance cert, so the DVLC must have a record of insurance relating to the vehicle. The police have a direct line to the DVLC because they regularly run operations to catch people driving without tax. They already know who they are, they just wait for you to drive past.

    The previous posters comments about matching the face to the licence should be all that's needed. Otherwise fingerprints prove nothing, because they don't have mine, and checking them will prove nothing.

  • by Garry Anderson ( 194949 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @08:19PM (#16959562) Homepage
    Quote: "The portable gadgets - similar to a pocket PC and linked to a database of 6.5m prints - will enable officers to identify suspects within minutes". []

    Well, like I always said - you can be identified with a remote device - the carrying of ID cards is a Red Herring.

    You always carry your biometrics with you.

    Our UK government will have effectively branded you with a unique number - like the Nazi's did to the Jews at Auschwitz.

    Rather than being identified by a tattoo on arm - you will be identified with a scanner - like an animal that has been 'chipped'.

    In their usual devious way - government will say it is because they 'care' for the safety of the public - when we know ID cards would not have stopped London bombing - nor did they stop Madrid.

    This from a UK government that helped force their corrupt form of US friendly 'democracy' on Iraqi people - our government are no more than dictatorial authoritarian fascist reactionaries themselves.

    This is not the sort of 'caring' that true democratic governments would want - one which keeps record of movements and associations of individual members of public - with no privacy.

    As to the ID system itself:

    With computing power doubling every year (and software/firmware enhancements) this identification will get down to seconds when National ID Surveillance System is compulsively introduced - even though database will increase ten-fold.

    Even with current technology - using 1 finger it will correctly identify 19 out of 20 people (95%) - with 2 fingers it will increase accuracy to 19.95 out of 20 (i.e. correctly identifying 19 with no match out of 20 - or 99.75%) - with 3 fingers this will be near 100% accuracy.

    NB: iris and 1 finger scan will produce similar accurate result.

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