New ‘Stop and Scan’ Powers to Fingerprint ‘Illegal Immigrants’

Police in the UK are trialling a new “stop and scan” power, which lets them check the fingerprints of unknown individuals against national criminal and immigration databases.  Officers will be able to stop anyone when an offense is suspected and scan their fingerprints using a mobile device if the individual cannot otherwise identify themselves. The scanners will check fingerprints against 12 million biometric records held in two databases: IDENT1, which contains the fingerprints of people taken into custody, and IABS, which contains the fingerprints of foreign citizens, recorded when they enter the UK.

Speaking to Wired UK, project manager Clive Poulton, who is helping oversee the trials for the Home Office, said: “[Police] can now identify the person in front of them whether they are known to them or not known to them, and then they can deal with them.” The Home Office and police forces involved say stop and scan is simply a way to speed up checks that officers would otherwise have to make at police stations. But privacy and human rights advocates warn that the mobility of the technology and the lack of oversight in its deployment means it could foster abusive policing tactics.

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