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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 eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @01:38PM (#16953136) Journal
    from the blood-and-urine-samples-next dept.
    Of course, news of a dip-stick test was released two days ago []. I imagine cops might be given authority to draw blood at the scene of a crime and use standard testing kits installed in their cars. Scary? Yeah, kind of--although I think probably cause would have to be very very high for this kind of invasion of privacy. Any lawyers out there know what the law (local or federal) says about forced blood & UA analysis?
  • by Josh Lindenmuth ( 1029922 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `htumnednilhsoj'> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @01:41PM (#16953188) Journal
    Am I missing something (which is possible, since there's no article to reference), or are they spending a ton of money to solve a problem with a simple solution?

    Their rational is that "it is primarily aimed at motorists because banned or uninsured drivers often give false names". Isn't this what a Driver's License is for? Or do British not have licenses (or not require that drivers carry licenses)?

    If someone doesn't have a license, or any other form of photo identification, they probably shouldn't be driving. It sounds like it would be far cheaper (and less of a privacy concern) to haul in anybody driving without a valid photo ID, since these people are more likely to be uninsured or banned.

    Or if the thought of hauling in folks without IDs is unappealing (since many people just forget to carry IDs), police could just ask the person a few key questions (such as name, address, city, maybe some type of social security #), which would be in the police database. Then this could be cross referenced against the auto registration. Seems easy to verify that the individual is telling the truth using existing data without resorting to finger prints.

    Of course, you could have someone who stole their neighbors car + memorized their name/address/social, but this type of person would have probably created a good fake ID as well ... meaning they wouldn't have been caught by the finger printing method either.
  • by Peter Cooper ( 660482 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @01:58PM (#16953602) Homepage Journal
    They say " pedestrians could also be asked to give prints if they are suspected to have committed an offence".

    Considering that anyone can be suspected of anything, this opens the gates for totally random fingerprinting in the street. We already have random checks and detentions for the flimsiest of reasons. Consider the 34 year old woman labeled a terrorist for walking along a cycle path [], the stopping and searching of an 11 year old girl near an RAF base, "the detention of a 21 year old student for taking pictures of the M3 motorway for a web-design company", the ejection [] of an 82 year old man at the 2005 Labour Party conference, and the detention of an 80-year-old man carrying an anti-Blair placard, for example []. If you refuse, the precedents set by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, Terrorism Act 2000, and Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 would ensure it unlikely you'd get off scott-free but instead become more of a suspect.

    Still, I'm not going to do anything about it other than complain about it online, as is my wont. In another 50 years when I'm eating my Soylent Green in my 29th-floor bugged apartment, I can pull out ruffled print-outs of Web pages like these, and think back to a time when at least my bowel movements weren't RFID tagged and scanned for prohibited substances.

    Basically, the British government is corrupt to the core and bordering on fascist. But.. what government isn't these days?
  • by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @02:07PM (#16953770) Homepage Journal
    Seems like the easier solution, and the far less creepy one, is just to hook the police cars up with terminals that communicate with the drivers-license database, including its photos.

    When you get pulled over, you'd either present your license, which they could then take back to their patrol car (or just note the number) and run into the system to find if it's suspended, or if you forgot your license, they could look you up based on name/address/DOB and using the photo attached to the record in the system, see that it's you. That also makes it harder to use a fake license, since it wouldn't come up in the system, or to use someone else's license, because the photo on the record wouldn't be you. It also lets the police use a much bigger / higher quality photo (on the screen) for identification, than the crappy one on the license itself.

    That wouldn't require any more data collection than what they assumedly have already (assuming they use photographic drivers licenses and that the photos are digitized), and it doesn't involve sampling previously uncollected data from lots of people. Randomly fingerprinting people is tres creepy, in my opinion.

    I've never really looked too hard at the systems in use here in the U.S., but I think that they work something like this. (The cities that have in-car computer systems, anyway.) I'm sure that whoever makes these systems would be happy to demo them in Britain.
  • by JimBobJoe ( 2758 ) <> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @02:42PM (#16954566)
    If someone doesn't have a license, or any other form of photo identification, they probably shouldn't be driving.

    The UK only adopted a photo based driver's license in the last...8 years maybe? What's interesting about that is the photo was added because the European Union decided to standardize licenses with a photograph--time and time again, the British claimed that they had no need to have a photo based license and that their non-photo paper licenses worked just fine. (Unlike North American style non-photo driver's licenses, I was not given the impression that the UK non-photo had a description of the bearer (height, weight, eye color, hair color.)

    There is some sorta weird and very desperate urge for national ID cards in the UK. But suffice it to say, the American and British experience has proven that the photograph is not a requirement for maintaining motor vehicle safety.
  • by hogghogg ( 791053 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @03:24PM (#16955400) Homepage Journal

    Although I think a fingerprint can be used to distinguish among a small number of people, it has never been demonstrated, to my knowledge, to be useable to locate a person in a multi-million-person database. The US and UK pretend to have this capability, but I don't think it has ever been demonstrated in a public (much less peer-reviewed, double-blind) test. If I am wrong, please reply to this with references.

    Routine, un-targeted fingerprinting of this kind is a method for scaring people, not catching people.

  • by MtlDty ( 711230 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @03:46PM (#16955850)
    The best part about this is that if you refuse the roadside test, they can arrest you, take you back to the station and get your FULL fingerprints (rather than the index finger only that the roadside test takes).

    I find it pretty disgusting that the first time we hear of the system its already out there and ready to be used. What happened to discussing these things, getting opinions, considering the implications. Or dare I say was it rushed out to avoid exactly those kinds of questions.

If it's not in the computer, it doesn't exist.