Not Saussure

March 4, 2007

Fingerprinting children.

Filed under: civil liberties, ID cards — notsaussure @ 7:26 pm

If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear other than the snoops who run this government. The BBC reports

Proposals to fingerprint children aged 11 to 15 as part of new passport and ID card plans are being considered.Immigration minister Liam Byrne told ITV1’s The Sunday Edition the proposals were being “looked at”.

Under existing plans every passport applicant over 16 will have details – including fingerprints – added to a National Identity register from 2008.

But there was concern youngsters could use passports without biometric details up to the age of 20, said Mr Byrne.

This could happen if they are issued a child passport between the ages of 11 and 15, which would be valid for five years.

The report continues,

Last month the opposition parties expressed anger that all fingerprints collected for ID cards would be cross-checked against prints from 900,000 unsolved crimes.And campaigners have long battled fingerprinting of children in schools, a practice they estimate happens in about 3,500 establishments.

From this month guidelines from privacy watchdog the Information Commissioner will urge schools to get parental consent before taking biometric data.

But under the Data Protection Act schools do not have to seek parental consent, and calls to outlaw the controversial practice have been rejected by the government.

On Monday campaign group Leave Them Kids Alone will launch a list of 10 questions it recommends all parents ask of their child’s school, if biometric systems are being considered or introduced.

The campaign group quotes Pippa King — with whose blog Biometrics in schools I was hitherto unfamiliar, but it seems an excellent resource:

If the people of Eastern Europe had been subject to the same level of surveillance and control that is now being proposed in the UK, the Berlin Wall would still be standing today. With everyone’s fingerprints and DNA on a government database, all protesters would have faced immediate arrest and imprisonment. Here, it’s already against the law to protest within a mile of Parliament. That’s not the kind of world I want for my children.

As Julian Baggini notes, ‘if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear’ is a false dichotomy;

What the innocent fear is not being found out, but living under an intrusive or unjust regime

(or, I suppose, an incompetent one that sends out people’s personal banking details to the wrong addresses and has its own employees’ details stolen by fraudsters). And this is just another step towards indoctrinating children with the idea this is all completely normal.

Update:   Beau Bo D’Or has the picture.

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  1. […] Not Saussure is his usual eloquent self on the subject of fingerprints, and it’s also fuelled Bo Beau D’Or’s artistic fire. […]

    Pingback by Keeping up appearances « The ARCH Blog — March 5, 2007 @ 6:46 pm

  2. Do not be taken in by the, ‘If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear’ approach.

    My daughter’s fingerprint was mis-identified ten years ago and the experts concerned still deny a mistake.

    As our surveillance society expands more mistakes will be made and not admitted and more lives ruined or put on hold.


    Comment by Iain McKie — March 7, 2007 @ 11:25 am

  3. Indeed, Mr McKie; it was, in fact, hearing a programme on Radio 4 about your daughter’s case, some years ago, that first raised my concerns about fingerprints. Until then, I always — very naively — assumed that fingerprint evidence was reliable. I had no idea that present forensic practice is interested only in points of similarity and not, as in your daughter’s case, in points of obvious dissimilarity between the two samples.

    If this plan to run everyone’s fingerprints against all unsolved serious crimes goes ahead, it’s going to be very interesting to see how many false positives they get. And I, certainly, wouldn’t want to be someone whose fingerprints are mistakenly identified — as your daughter’s case shows can all too easily happen — as being those left at the scene of a serious crime.

    Comment by notsaussure — March 7, 2007 @ 12:13 pm

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