October 27, 2008
Every police force in the UK is to be equipped with mobile fingerprint scanners – handheld devices that allow police to carry out identity checks on people in the street.
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
The new technology, which ultimately may be able to receive pictures of suspects, is likely to be in widespread use within 18 months. Tens of thousands of sets – as compact as BlackBerry smartphones – are expected to be distributed.
The police claim the scheme, called Project Midas, will transform the speed of criminal investigations. A similar, heavier machine has been tested during limited trials with motorway patrols.
To address fears about mass surveillance and random searches, the police insist fingerprints taken by the scanners will not be stored or added to databases.
Liberty, the civil rights group, cautioned that the law required fingerprints taken in such circumstances to be deleted after use. Gareth Crossman, Liberty’s policy director, said: “Saving time with new technology could help police performance but officers must make absolutely certain that they take fingerprints only when they suspect an individual of an offence and can’t establish his identity.”