back to article FBI to get UK biometric database hookup?

The list of police and security forces which can gain automated access to UK law-enforcement biometric databases may be set to widen, according to reports. The national databases of the US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand could be interlinked, under the so-called "Server in the Sky" initiative, the Times and the Guardian …


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  1. Hollerith

    'worst of the worst' rendered int he twinkling of an eye

    Given that the USA recently passed a law (or made a presidential pronouncement, can't remember and does it matter) saying that they could grab anyone, US citizen, citizen of another country, not just from within the US borders, but anywhere in the world, the idea of sharing info so that this can happen seems a, well, a mistake.

    Anyone can be taken from any country without due process at any time. That's the basic. I don't think the USA would snatch a high-profile politicians or businessman, but anybody who has a name identical to one ont he 'worst of the worst' list, or one similar to it, or indeed anyone whose name happens to get onto the list by accident, can be here one minute, and Gitmo or some Syrian torture-pit the next.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    extremely dangerous

    So our 60 million entry database will be open to the US government who would probably be able to find at least one person matching anything they were looking for, and then extradite them based on the "evidence" provided by the biometric lookup?

  3. Anonymous Coward

    "Server in the Sky Initiative"

    I wonder why the word "SkyNet" flashed through my mind as I read that.



  4. Red Bren

    Quid Pro Quo?

    So if the US authorities find a (false?) positive match for their No1 most wanted on the UK database, they will expect their suspect to be dispatched across the pond with minimal judicial interference.

    Why do I suspect the reverse may not be true?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    does this mean we'll no longer be able to get away with visa waiver if we've received a caution for being drunk and incapable on a public highway?

    As an aside - I'm really shocked.

  6. cor
    Black Helicopters

    Hmmmn the plod, I mean plot, thickens....

    Does this mean that they will soon be able to bridge through the UK DB into requesting EU info?

    How many false positives will they hit when they combine Aussie/NZ, UK, EU and US biometrics, these countries having a common (genetic) migration history...?

  7. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Anyone can be taken from any country without due process at any time

    Isn't that already existing under a different name ? It's called 'kidnapping', I believe. I doubt any country would take kindly to disappearing citizens.

  8. Steve Browne

    Is that true ?

    That the americans want to grab whomsoever they choose without any judicial oversight ?

    If so, it is time to sever all links with that rabid country.

  9. cor
    Black Helicopters

    Well I suppose we've nothing to fear really...

    Because America is a democracy that loves freedom and abhors water-boarding, the death penalty, repeated tazering of handcuffed victims, imprisonment of minors...

    I mean, surely they would never kidnap, torture and illegally incarcerate a suspect.

    Oh wait....

  10. Steve

    @ Pascal

    "I doubt any country would take kindly to disappearing citizens."

    I'm sure the great respect with which the US treats other countries opinions should keep us all safe and free then. Besides, US policy is always in everyones best interest so if a country objects to US policy they're probably terrorists and ripe liberating.

    Oh, yes. They will liberate the shit out of you!

  11. Ernest

    @ Neil

    Skynet already exists. Skynet, a secure military communications system family operated by the UK Ministry of Defence since 1969 (source: wikipedia)

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    And we are surprised because ?

    Come on virus developers - it's time someone wrote something useful.

    It must be possible to develop some dbase destroying code that could render such big brother tactics futile.

    (One can only hope).

  13. Michael Miller

    It's all part of the invasion plan

    We'll get you one by one........


  14. Anonymous Coward

    Don't worry about our government.... have enough to worry about with your own.

    @cor - America is a constitutionally limited Republic ... though since the utter failure of the public school system, the rise of fanatical right wing religious nuts, and left wing apologists most no longer understand or care about the difference.

  15. Maurice Shakeshaft

    Finger prints

    The principle of fingerprint data being filed was much less of an issue when it took some effort and diligence to find/fit up a perp and the data were held for convicts for a set time.

    With "biometrics for everyone forever" and shared to boot, it's a bit like junk mail and the postal service. Your details will be available to every nonse who wants to get at you.

    Sorry, what am I saying, this is a protected, secure, access controlled linked database. What possible fears can a righteous person, with nothing to hide, have. Silly me. I need my dosage changing.

  16. Ferry Boat

    I'm really sorry Mr Greenbaum

    Before I die and they lay me to rest

    Gonna be in the database that's the best

    When I do anything not hurt a fly

    Goin' up to the server in the sky

    Goin' up to the server in the sky

    That's where my details go before I die

    When I die and they lay me to rest

    I still be on that database that's the best

    Prepare yourself you know it's a must

    Gotta have a friend in George Bush

    So you know that before you die

    He's gonna enter you

    Onto the server in the sky

    Gonna enter you

    Onto the server in the sky

    That's where your details go before you die

    Before you die and they lay you to rest

    You're gonna go to the USA under arrest

    Never been a sinner I never sinned

    I got a friend in George Bush

    So you know that don't matter a fly

    He's gonna set me up on

    The server in the sky

    Oh set me up on the server in the sky

    That's where my details go before I die

    Before I die and they lay me to rest

    I'm gonna be on the database that's the best

    Gonna go to that Guantanamo

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The likely hood of me moving to a non-English speaking country just took a leap upwards.

    I'm thinking Poland, I hear they've had a bit of a population drop in the past few years ;-)

    Oh, and I like Krupnik... Żywiec... Snow...

  18. ScratchyNutz
    Black Helicopters

    Extradition? Wossat then?

    "I doubt any country would take kindly to disappearing citizens."


  19. Anonymous
    Paris Hilton

    re: Quid Pro Quo?

    The americans were forced to pass the unilateral kidnap law because they were worried that a reciprocal extradition treaty would allow the UK to ask for some Irish freedom fighters back.

    Or that the French would steal Paris Hilton?

  20. Vaughan
    Black Helicopters

    Server in the sky?

    Never been a sinner, I've never sinned

    I've got a friend in Jesus

    But you know that when before I die

    He's gonna fit me up with the server in the sky

    With apologies to Norman Greenbaum

  21. Karl Lattimer

    hang on a minute

    everyone's banging on about privacy but its OK for our government to GIVE this info to the US (as in its US against the world), without our prior written consent... In a country where we've already got people kicking up a fuss over the DNA database?

    I'm with the virus writers idea, come on lads, put a stop to it! You used to fight for all that was free and just!

  22. Andy
    Black Helicopters


    "I doubt any country would take kindly to disappearing citizens."

    Actually, Germany was very quiet about America kidnapping one of their citizens, unlawfully detaining him, torturing him, drugging him, and then dropping him off in a foreign country (

    They initially made a bit of a fuss but quickly quietened down. No doubt the prospect of losing a third world war to America wasn't worth the freedom of its citizens.

    What makes you think your country is any different? From a politician's perspective, do you think it is worthwhile pissing America off to save you from being tortured? Probably not, actually.

    America has military bases throughout Europe. Do you think a government that allows America to build a base on their homesoil is going to complain if America kidnaps you with the view to torturing you? Maybe they'll complain a little, just for show, if you're lucky.

    Your vote really doesn't count that much - especially if you're currently being held underwater by American spooks while they try to persuade you to admit that you are in fact the devil and have been planning to steal Dubya's underpants.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Domestic spying laws

    So will they change the USA law to make domestic spying on foreign countries (ie. UK) illegal? Or will it both be legal for the USA to spy on it's 'friends' and at the same time we give them the tools to do it?

    And will we change our laws to make it illegal for us to spy on them? Or will be just help ourselves to their data? How do we stop this being used to circument local laws.

    And how will we enforce the above rules? Or do we just cross our fingers and hope for the best?

    And when US Congress can't make the administration abide by US law, even though they have the power of empeachment, how will we? What happens when another Bush comes along and starts abusing it? How will be know it's being abused if there's no process at our end checking the requests that come in?

    Personally, I'd prefer some sort of judicial process. I know it's terribly old fashioned, but some kind of checks and balances in there, warrants, remember those? Presumption of innocence, that old fashioned idea. That stuff. If only privacy was written into some sort of human rights document. If only.

  24. Harry Stottle

    How're you going to stop them?

    We already know full well that the spineless ignorant wankers we call politicians cannot understand Security related issues and will, therefore, kowtow to any "security professional" telling them they need to permit cavity searches wherever and whenever in order to protect us from the "terrrrists". Which is why - rather than trying feebly to bat away their dangerous ideas - we need to come up with our own security solutions which will protect us from both Tyrant AND Terrorist.

    If you haven't already seen my own efforts in that context, here's the starting point:

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    America, the land of the free

    Thanks guys...all your names have been recorded !

  26. David Whiting

    secure transfer

    I presume we'll be sending them the data by TNT on CDs.

  27. Hollerith

    @David Whiting

    If they were to send the data by CD, I would breathe easier.

    The Italians actually tried to get the USA into court over the alleged Al Qaida terrorist some American spooks snatched from uner the nose of Italian security, who had just finished building a picture of the terrorist network in their country and were going go for a group grab into jail. But the Yanks grabbed the guy off the street and stuck him on a plane to destinations and fate unknown. If they got from him anything about his Italian connections, they didn't share with the Italians.

    So that made the world safer, then.

    And now we want to give them a list of everybody in this country, and hope that a little typo doesn't move a twelve-year -old into the 'terrorist' category.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Think, sheople, THINK!

    Cui bono? Which group of people stands to benefit most from this?

    People whose national allegiances are secondary to their main interests. People who can move freely from country to country. People who are so important as to be allowed to move freely from country to country. People who have the muscle to cause this database sharing to come about. People who need to keep tabs on the masses, but not because they care about them. Is the penny dropping?

  29. Ed

    No new law...

    No new law was passed. It was just an interpretation of stuff from the 19th century and then a reaffirmation in 1992. Insane if you asked me.

  30. Andy Bright

    To me this isn't the problem

    We've always known that police forces will share the information they gather, to say otherwise is stupidly naive.

    And in most instances that makes more sense than otherwise, helping to catch some of the worst types of criminals, such as paedophiles and murderers that skip countries to escape punishment.

    So for me the problems are more along the lines of how and why the police obtain the information in the first place, how easy it is to correct mistakes or remove unjustifiably collected data - and to educate the public (hence juries) that DNA gathering and biometric data is anything but 100%, because of the mistakes made collecting it, the mistakes made entering the data (i.e. joe serial killer's dna is plonked under joe innocent's name).

    These would be my arguments against not just allowing access to, but creating such databases in the first place. I don't see how this can be stopped as apparently we have absolutely no say whatsoever in what our governments do, but if there is a way it needs to be done until they can give us satisfactory answers as to how they are going to fix these problems.

  31. Anonymous Coward

    Look, We're in charge!!

    We won the war in 1776 (the last time the French did something useful and helped us), and the USA is in charge. Get used to it. Our government always wants to be in charge, and will do lots to get its way. It doesn't matter that it breaks its own laws, because it just writes new ones to cover its a**. Unfortunately even if we vote in a new government, nothing changes. As a silly president (who started all this nanny stuff anyway) said "We've got nothing to fear but fear itself".

    I'll now go back to hiding in some remote area powered by solar cells and wind turbines being "off grid"

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Andy Bright, they can't share it under Article 8

    "We've always known that police forces will share the information they gather, to say otherwise is stupidly naive. And in most instances that makes more sense than otherwise, helping to catch some of the worst types of criminals, such as paedophiles and murderers that skip countries to escape punishment."

    It is a problem because you're removing the judicial check on the foreign claim if you opt for an *automated* system. So a foreign power can look up anyones details on SPURIOUS or out right FALSE grounds under an automated system, whereas for a system with judicial review, a UK judge will check it is done with compliance to UK law.

    There's also no comeback for false claims, since UK law doesn't apply outside UK.

    Human Rights Act 1998 Article 8, gives a general right of privacy. For the state to interfere with that privacy it must be:

    • In accordance with law; and

    • In the interests of the legitimate objectives identified in Article 8(2); and

    • Necessary in a democratic society.

    There is no '*.*' wildcard attached on the end of that. They can't simply hand data over legally without ensuring it complies with these 3 things. That's UK law BTW, the USA can give NSA full access to spy on everything by everyone and it means squat inside the UK. GCHQ is still obligated to abide by UK law.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    That reminds me of the collapse of cyberpunk post 2027

    Firstly was a massive ai computer virus that destroyed almost all computer data.

    However just to make sure there was a nanite paper virus that destroyed all the paper records.

    Over reliance on technology will almost certainly come back to bite us one day. Or maybe it wont, as in the "governments" of the future may well have complete control of our computer resources and shape our histories to their whim. There would be no physical paper books to deny their truth as they shall all have been locked away long ago. So we will always be happy with their truth.

    Jeez that's a scarry thought and not far off if you look around... Great I've just wrapped myself up in my own conspiracy theory.

  34. Stephen

    Bye then

    The American prison population is 2.2M (0.73% of the total population), The British prison population is 80,000 (0.13%).

    This means that by American standards 360,000 of us are guilty of something that we should be in prison for.

    We could be seeing a rapid population fall any time now.

  35. Emo

    All your biometric

    belong to us..

  36. Lee

    "I doubt any country would take kindly to disappearing citizens."

    When I worked in the Netherlands, I remember a security guard telling me about (and I'm unsure of the facts here so if anyone knows more then please elaborate) the Dutch government or legal system detaining some American VIP's (they were either diplomats or armed services' personnel) due to some crime committed against the Dutch. The Americans told the Dutch government that if the VIP's were not released then they would invade and take them by force. The Dutch released them.

    What the event was I cannot fully recall but the words of that security guard I believe. The American government wants everybody else to play its game and follow it blindly without adding their own rules to create fair play. The only countries America listens to are those that are too big (financially and militarily) and gutsy to be threatened (although it doesn't stop them from trying to dominate them).

    Unfortunately, the world needs America - It has done a lot of good as well as bad. It's given us fast food, Hollywood films, the confidence of freedom to express ourselves, it has taught us to embrace new technology. Left to Europe our forefathers would have waited many more years than they did before they moved from candles to electric lighting. But, we also need another country or group of countries willing to keep America in check to prevent it from repeating the mistakes of old, imperial Europe.

  37. Jon Minhinnick

    @ disappearing citizens

    Remember when the French govt bombed the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland in 1985? Yes, state-sponsored terrorism. Against a friendly nation. The perps were pretty quickly caught, tried and found guilty. Put into prison. And then the pressure started. France threatened trade sanctions (big force in the EU, where NZ sells its butter) and the terrorists went to live on a (French) Pacific atoll. For a while, anyway, until they came home to France to a hero's welcome.

    So we have not just innocents disappearing, but proven guilty terrorists also being removed and never coming back. The USA is an even bigger economic superpower (excluding sub-prime mortgages!) and they will just take what they like. You've got something America wants? Get used to losing it.

  38. kain preacher

    great nation

    The hall mark of a great nation is not one were it can make its citizen disappear, or those of another country. No the hall mark of a great country is one that can do it with out people complaining or noticing.

  39. Mother Hubbard
    Dead Vulture

    Statistical fallibility ..

    Out of this entire debate, why is no-one questioning the statistical fallibilty of millions of biological-based samples - particularly fingerprints? Even El Reg challenged this in 2004, based on a US DoJ study and New Scientist comments;

    This isn't just two people with the same name - this is two people with the same fingerprint (something that is not deemed as legally challengable).

    As for SkyNet; Look, we all know that the "Server in the Sky" label is the "official" line produced by the Auditor General when investigating the CD "losses". You know; "But daddy, where did the CD's go?" "Well, son, as is the cycle of life - when a CD has had his day, he goes to the big server in the sky .."

    Like Elvis, the CD's aren't "gone", they've just .. "moved on" .. its easier that way.

  40. Mother Hubbard

    On the Individuality of Fingerprints, 2001.

    From; "On the Individuality of Fingerprints", 2001.

    Our results show that (i) contrary to the popular belief, fingerprint matching is not infallible and leads to some false associations, (ii) while there is an overwhelming amount of discriminatory information present in the fingerprints, the strength of the evidence degrades drastically with noise in the sensed fingerprint images, (iii) the performance of the state-of-the-art automatic fingerprint matchers is not even close to the theoretical limit, and (iv) because automatic fingerprint verification systems use only a part of the discriminatory information present in the fingerprints, it may desirable to explore additional complementary representations of fingerprints for automatic matching.

    Meanwhile, at Scottland Yard: "Allo allo allo - The computa' says we can nick 17 people across 4 continents for the John Doe print off that SIM card, guv!" "Blighty! .. get your coat PC Williams .. and tell Miss Jenkins to get a pot on for when we're back next Tuesday .."

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture


    These people are better trained, better resourced, and a whole lot nastier than any terrorists. They are the enemy.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Quid Pro Quo

    It isn't, the US, typically has still not ratified the reciprocal arrangement. So yes, they can haul off any British citizen or resident with minimal evidence, if any, with minimal interfearence by the British judiciary.

    Let us not forget the American legal system is all abouut revenge, funding private sector jails, by keeping them full, and making sure the DAs and Judges stay in office by being seen to be tough on crime. I don't think justice come into their system anywhere, unless you are American and have lots and lots of money.

  43. Michael

    Uk biometrics and Europe?

    Not much mention of the UK opt out of schengen treaty here, and the up-and coming conflict between it and Ireland over northern ireland border crossings.... when Ireland DOES decide to join.Will we have to ask the Americans if we need to go to MittelEuropa? Lets face it... They've already got our drivers licence details in Ohio.

  44. Tim J

    No problem

    Good, law abiding, patriotic individuals have nothing to worry about. We should all have to give the authorities our fingerprints and a DNA sample, it would make life easier for the police.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Lee

    Since the credit for incadescent lightbulb technology was effectively stolen by the American Edison from British inventor Joseph Swan, then tweaked for viable mass-production (not a particularly difficult task once you've put some money behind the endeavour), we wouldn't have been waiting a particularly long time for an alternative to candle-light. Research the Edison & Swan Electric Light Company, formed after the fait accompli of Edison's having dishonestly patented Swan's technology in the US. The myth of America's timely gift to the world of such technological revolutions is in this case, as in so many others, simply down to good old avarice and the Machiavellian grasping of credit where it's scarcely due. Oh, we're calling it entrepreneurialism now; that's right. Silly me.

  46. Mark

    @Ferry Boat

    You do realise that you are in contravention of copyright by making unauthorised use of a copyrighted work.

    And contributory infringement, too (I had to think of the tune to follow the words to see if they fit appropriately).

    AND on the internet!

    Bad boy!

    Please report for termination. The computer is your friend.

  47. MarkW

    @Tim J re: No problem

    Tell that to the family of Jean Charles de Menezes.

    In addition, from the aforementioned :-

    "In December 2003, German citizen Khaled el-Masri boarded a bus in Germany for a holiday in Skopje, Macedonia.

    Instead of a restful vacation, the Muslim man of Lebanese heritage says he ended up in a Central Intelligence Agency isolation cell in Afghanistan as a suspected terrorist. He was released after five months of interrogation with no explanation justifying the action or apology if it was a mistake."

    The standard talking point is that those in Guantanámo were "lifted from the battlefield". The reality is that more than half were captured by the Afghan Northern Alliance and exchanged for CIA cash.

  48. Chewy

    @Tim J

    Well the reverse is also true. If I am not a criminal then they don't need my DNA. We supposedly live in a country where you are innocent until proven guilty. I'd rather not live in a police state thanks very much.

  49. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle


    I don't suppose anybody noticed that the FBI has the IT aptitude of the British government and that there is no database and there is no FBI computer to use it even if there was and by the looks of things there never will be.

  50. John Dougald McCallum


    They've already got our drivers licence details in Ohio.

    But then promptly lost them,Oh and they were details of driving test applicants

    not that that makes it any better

    The bike jacket and silver skidlid.

  51. bob
    Black Helicopters


    So the yanks want our fingerprints...

    IDENT1 (formerly NAFIS, the National Automated Fingerprint Identification System) is run (owned?) by Nothrop Grumman, a BIG US Corporation, under contract from NPIA... Do you seriously thing that they don't have all the prints and other data already?

  52. Anonymous Coward

    Tomorrow belongs to me!

    The sound of the jackboot grows ever louder. You voted these people in, stop moaning about their Big Brother tactics and vote them out again whilst you still can.

  53. Tim J

    Something to hide? I think so...

    I'm pretty sure that both MarkW and Chevvy have something to hide - but of course we can't be certain of that until a complete fingerprint and DNA database exists for all citizens, and is shared across the free world.

    Chevvy's line about being innocent until proven guilty is the giveaway here - those who are hostile to giving the police their DNA are surely fearful simply because they don't want to prove themselves guilty.

    The police state argument is false too - there would be less need for police if everyone knew they would get caught if they committed a crime, as most people wouldn't do it.

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    It's too late now, Canute vs Neptune

    You are now all on 'the' database - and Plod will probably seizing El Reg for the mail addresses of the Anonymous Cowards.

    The fact is that for biometrics to work effectively for international border control and law enforcement there is a need for a clearing system for Biometric data; rather like credit card clearing.

    Otherwise you have to rely on the biometric in the passport matching the characteristics of the person carrying the card, and it has been proven time and again that these can be fraudulently acquired/created.

    There are close computational and shared data links between the DVLA and the passport agencies.

    Curiously, the Iowa company who lost our drivers license details, run the US Census; recently criticised for gathering ethnic data for the first time just like the Romanian & Nazi Government did just before it started to round up the Jews and Gypsies and shipped them off to Poland. (Using IBMs first mechanical computers)

    Have a nice day ya' all

    Also see

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