UK police trials mobile fingerprint technology for real-time identity checks


In February 2018 the Home Office gave the Yorkshire Police 250 scanners that use a smartphone app to run mobile fingerprint checks against the UK's criminal fingerprint and biometrics database (IDENT1) and the Immigration and Asylum Biometrics System (IABS). The app was simultaneously made available to all 5,500 frontline Yorkshire Police officers, with a plan to roll the service out to another 20 forces by the end of 2018. Police are able to use the scanners when people they stop on the street cannot provide identification, withhold their name, or in the officer's opinion are lying about their identity. The Home Office argues that the tool saves time and could be of assistance in a medical emergency, and says the fingerprints are automatically deleted once they have been checked. Calling the system "invasive", Liberty objected that there was no discussion of consent or disclosure of whether people have the right to decline the request. Big Brother Watch was concerned that the tool would be overused, particularly to ethnic minorities, and represented a growth of border-style security on public streets. The Home Office is known to keep custody images, even of people not charged with a crime, for up to ten years. Individuals must request their deletion. The government department intends to merge the IDENT1 and IABS databases into a single service management system.

Writer: Rebecca Hill, government press release
Publication: The Register, government press release