No2ID has called for plans to allow the police to fingerprint people on the street using mobile scanners to be put on hold until vital legal protections are put in place.
The plan to use mobile scanners would set a significant and potentially very dangerous trap for the public, warn No2ID. Police currently have the power to demand fingerprints from someone only after arresting them. Fingerprinting at police stations is done under carefully controlled conditions.
They warned that if scanners are in use, the police will in practice be checking fingerprints using technology that is known to give false results a significant amount of the time, and members of the public may find themselves under pressure
to give prints "voluntarily" when it is not legally required to identify them. Given the government's appalling record on abuse and mishandling of personal data and its "fairy-tale thinking" about biometric technology.
NO2ID has made four demands:
1) That failure rates as well as the success rates are regularly reported to Parliament from the very outset, beginning with full disclosure (no claims of "commercial confidentiality") on Project Midas and previous trials. Sadly, this Government has a habit of only reporting the 'good news' about biometrics - not the bad.
2) That the scanners be limited by law to checking only against *criminal* fingerprint databases. Any checks against the proposed National Identity Register, for example, would be a fishing expedition effectively turning the entire population into suspects.
3) That it be declared illegal for fingerprints gathered in this way - or any data obtained, such as the name of the person involved - from being stored permanently except in connection with an actual prosecution. Otherwise there is nothing to stop this, over time, resulting in the creeping fingerprinting the general population, starting with the young and members of ethnic minorities.
4) That arresting someone for refusal or failure to provide fingerprints when there is not otherwise a problem identifying them or when no offence has been committed, be clearly banned and made a disciplinary offence for police officers.
Phil Booth, NO2ID's national coordinator said: "This implies a completely new power for police to fingerprint you in the
street, using an iffy technology. If refusing to cooperate can get you arrested, then you would have not just fingerprints but DNA on a criminal database for the rest of your life. That means the state can pick on anyone at any time."