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British regime to fingerprint millions of law-abiding citizens

*** The UK will start taking fingerprints and recording biometric data from millions of private citizens this month, starting with working-class people who paid for their holidays without knowing what they were signing-up for and cannot afford to lose money by changing their plans. Airport "security" will be used as a back-door to force millions of people into a new system of identity checks, allowing the authorities to trace and track people more closely than ever before, for the rest of their lives, including people who break no laws. Like an Orwellian nightmare, this momentous change to the rights and status of private citizens is being done as quietly as possible, with "terror" being cited usual as the official justification. ***

Millions of passengers to undergo fingerprinting in security crackdown at Heathrow's Terminal 5

Millions of domestic air passengers will have to undergo fingerprint and biometric checks before being allowed to board flights from the new Heathrow Terminal 5.

All passengers on internal flights leaving the terminal, which will open later this month, will have to submit to the checks as part of enhanced security measures.

The rules on domestic flights have been in place at Gatwick since the start of February and will also apply to Heathrow's Terminal 1 later this year.

Passengers who take such flights from both airports will have to be photographed at check-in and give four fingerprints on a pad at a special station before passing through security.

The process will be repeated just before getting on the plane to ensure it is the same person boarding. Airport staff will also check the photograph against the person's face.

BAA, which runs the airports, said the move was necessary to stop criminals, terrorists and immigrants getting around border controls.

It insists the data will be destroyed after 24 hours and will not be handed to police, although experts claim it could be used as a "'rich source" for intelligence agencies.

BAA says the biometric checks are necessary because domestic and international passengers are not segregated at Terminal 1 and Gatwick.

Passengers will also not be spilit up at Terminal 5, which will carry all British Airways flights.

The Spanish-owned company insists it won't be possible for someone in transit or on an international flight to swap boarding passes in the departure lounge with a passenger on a domestic flight who had already checked in.

The person could then get on to an internal flight, for which he or she would only have to show his boarding pass, fly on to another UK airport and leave without going through passport control.

Staff at Gatwick and Heathrow's Terminal 1 are currently getting round the problem by photographing all passengers as they go through security and checking the picture against the face at the departure gate.

But BAA has deemed this insufficient. Gatwick introduced the measures on February 1.

Fingerprinting is already carried out in some foreign airports such as in the US, but a BAA spokesman said this is a first in the UK.

Dr Gus Hosein, of the London School of Economics, an expert on the impact of technology on civil liberties, is harshly critical of the scheme.

He said: "BAA says the fingerprint data will be destroyed, but the records of who has travelled within the country will not be, and it will provide a rich source of data for intelligence agencies.

"By doing this they will make innocent people feel like criminals.

"There will be a suspicion that this is the thin end of the wedge, that we are being softened up by making fingerprinting seem normal in the run-up to things like ID cards."

Simon Davies, of the campaign group Privacy International, said a photograph alone was sufficient and cheaper.

He said: "If they are photographing people anyway, why can't that be used as a means of identification?

"It would probably be 50 times more reliable and a 50th of the cost.

"Fingerprint recognition technology is far from perfect and the experience in the US has show the information can only be used retrospectively, not in real time, as it takes so long to match a fingerprint to the one on the database."

A spokesman for BAA said the fingerprinting scheme was introduced in cooperation with the Home Office.

He said: "As international and domestic passengers will mix in the common lounge we are required, for border control purposes, to capture photo image and fingerprints of departing domestic passengers.

"At the gate, this data is reconciled to confirm the passengers' identity and ensures that UK border control regulations are met.

"The data is encrypted immediately and is destroyed within 24 hours of use, in accordance with the UK Data Protection Act 1998.

"The data captured does not include personal details nor is it cross referenced with any other data base."

Nobody from the Home Office was available for comment.

More than nine million domestic passengers pass through Terminal 1 each year, of which four million will be handled by Terminal 5 when it opens.

A BAA spokesman said he did not know how much the scheme would cost.

More than 50 per cent of countries have compulsory fingerprinting forms as part of their own UK visa application process.


Evening Standard, "Millions of passengers to undergo fingerprinting in security crackdown at Heathrow's Terminal 5", 9 March 2008.


Daily mail, "BAA forced to scrap plan for passenger fingerprinting at Heathrow's Terminal 5", 6 March 2008.
    The embarrassing 11th hour climbdown follows warnings that the check could be illegal.

Daily Mail, "Now BAA wants to fingerprint passengers at ALL its airports", 30 March 2008.

"The Insider" mailing list article, 09 March 2008.

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Tags: fingerprint, checks, airport, biometric, identity card, back-door, fingerprinting, ID cards, security, war on terror, , conspiracy theories.

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