back to article BAA grounds Heathrow T5 fingerprinting system

BAA has been forced to suspend plans to fingerprint domestic travellers at the new Heathrow Terminal 5 after confusion over the legality of the scheme. The suspension of the plan - based around a multi-million biometric system - comes just hours before the building opens to the public tomorrow. The British Airport Authority ( …


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  1. James


    Good good good good good

    Someone somewhere has to put a stake in the ground before we all get imbedded with microchips like dogs

  2. Bruno Girin
    Thumb Down

    One more reason not to fly

    Or at least not from T5, which means no flying with British Airways then. And all this because some bright spark had the idea to design T5 so that domestic and international travellers would mix. Another missed opportunity to KISS.

  3. Kiernan Wagstaff

    Only Terminal in the UK....

    Where international and Domestic passengers share the departures lounge...Sorry here was me thinking that both Gatwick North & Manchester, amoungst others I'm sure, use the same depatures lounge for International and Domestic travellers..Both have photo id to distinguish between the two..not Fingerprint scemes that would seem to be a little too big brother!

  4. James Radley
    Dead Vulture


    Don't the domestic/international passengers at Gatwick also share a departures lounge. It's just that Gatwick uses a facial biometric ( ie. a photograph ) to do the same job.

    I've also encountered the photo system at Luton, where there were some building works going on, which meant a temporary mingling of the arriving and departing passengers.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    All Hail the Information Commissioner

    The last line of defense against the surveillance society.

  6. Sid
    Black Helicopters

    At last...

    ...Someone seeing sense. The Information commissioners office using the Data Protection Act to protect people from unnecessary collection of unnecessary data. Hard to believe.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    HAA HAA HAA HAA multi million pound system will stand unused for all time - just like the worthless ID card scheme.

    HAA HAA HAA HAA - shame they spent our money on it.

  8. Nomen Publicus
    Dead Vulture

    Ha Ha!

    Next step will be for BAA to sue the architects for designing a building that is insecure.

  9. this

    nobody here but us chickens

    this is a classic example of a fix to a self created problem.(mixing international and domestic passengers).

    Rather like cramming too many chickens together in a battery farm and feeding them antibiotics to keep the disease rate at acceptable levels.

  10. JakeyC

    Great news and all...

    ...but can I just say how much I HATE the phrase 'going forward'.

    It means nothing. It states the bleedin' obvious. It is being used in every business in the land and needs to be stopped.

    That is all.

  11. Anonymous Coward


    They said:

    "photographic identification process during this time which is already in place."

    So if they have a working system already in place why do they need some orwellian fingerprint system? Surely if the system works and probably works better than the fingerprints why do they need to change it.

    Dodgy, dodgy, dodgy. I smell Goverment ID types and over enthusiastic anti terror Police. The types that like Policies that take away your freedoms for little or no real gain but increase pork barrel spending and empirical temporal power. Like the ID card system or the national road pricing system or the national anpr system or the national DNA database etc.

    I really wish promotion systems were based upon intelligence, leadership, thoughtfulness, desire for public service and a willingness to protect the public from threats which also include threats to their freedoms.

  12. Nigel Callaghan

    low tech alternative?

    They really are hooked on technology aren't they? Last time I went to a gig and needed a passout they just fixed a funny paper band round my wrist that couldn't be removed without damaging it. Couldn't they just give one of those to everyone at checkin and take it off them when they board? So much cheaper (too cheap probably!)

  13. Anonymous Coward

    I wish *we* had an ICO

    especially one with enough gumption to tell the president, homeland insecurity, etc, to stuff it, when necessary.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Rolf's evil twin saw it coming a while back...

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fingerprinting was for Commercial reasons, not security

    I understand that the Bloody Awful Asses wanted fingerprinting not for security, but because the profit-making Shopping area is shared between incoming & outgoing passengers. (i.e. rather than build two separate areas, it was cheaper to build just one area.)

  16. David Harper

    What's the problem?

    In most large American airports, domestic and international flights leave from the same concourse. Nobody could accuse our American cousins of a lack of paranoia about security, yet they seem to manage to mix domestic and international departues without the need to fingerprint every single traveller.

    Well, not yet, anyway.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Gatwick also shares the lounge between local and international passengers. But there they use a webcam to take a photo and compare those.

    No problem there... so why fingerprints?

  18. Vlad
    Black Helicopters

    A reprieve for T5, but the USA is still off my travel list

    Well done, Information Commissioner! I associate having my fingerprints being taken as being suspected of having been involved in a criminal activity. I found Orwell's 1984 the most haunting book that I've ever read and the gradual erosion of our privacy, and ultimately freedom, bothers me. 'Terrorism' is just the current bogeyman until something or someone else comes along. I resolved not to visit the USA again until they'd got over this fingerprinting business, but Terminal 5 is a bit too close to home for my liking. It's getting to the point where our travel is being restricted if we choose to avoid complying with their biometric ID methods. [I used to think that this icon was a native with a Mohican, and crossbones tied behind his head - is it just me?]

  19. Sid
    Black Helicopters


    I wont ever use T5, and I wont ever visit the USA again. I think it will be a long time before they get over this 'fingerprinting business'.

    Have you used the ferries recently? Only way to travel, in my opinion.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    Good to see the end of that, the 6 million dollar question is why the ICO waited till a couple of days before going live so wasting what must be millions of quids.

    Do these orgs. not speak to each other.

  21. BitBotherer

    Now I get it

    They have pulled their resources because they need an Information System to clear the gypsies from Tessa Jowells back-yard.

  22. Beachhutman

    Why is it needed at all?

    Short question, shorter answer - "It's not"

    It's fueled by our government's obsession with gathering data, and the craven agreements with the US over sending anything from the inner leg measurements to the family allotment grid reference to the US every time we get on a plane that goes into atmosphere the US uses too.

  23. K

    @ David Harper

    Outbound domestic and international passengers mingle in the US, sure - but inbound international passengers in the US, including *all* transfer passengers whether their next destination is the US or elsewhere, must each pass through immigration before they can transfer to any other flight - domestic or international. In the UK, transfer passengers do not pass through UK immigration if their ultimate destination is not the UK. Thus, if domestic and international passengers mix in the departure lounges, and swap tickets, an inbound international passenger from another country can fly to somewhere else in the UK without passing through UK immigration. The solution chosen for this is for everyone boarding domestic flights to be photographed when they enter the airport from landside in the UK, or when as a transfer passenger they have passed through immigration, so that each person who attempts to board a domestic flight must have a photograph proving they've been cleared by UK. Clear? :)

  24. Mr Larrington
    Black Helicopters


    they already started it in other bits of Heathrow. A couple of weeks ago a chap posted to a forum wot I frequent that he'd returned to Heathrow from Mexico via Madrid with naught but a BRITONS' passport to identify him, but on attempting to continue to Newcastle was obliged to be mug-shotted and have his dabs taken.

    He was miffed.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Outbound domestic and international passengers mingle in the US, sure - but inbound international passengers in the US, including *all* transfer passengers whether their next destination is the US or elsewhere, must each pass through immigration before they can transfer to any other flight - domestic or international."

    Does this apply to flights that stop just for re-fueling but where the passengers get off for a couple of hours? Just wondering 'cause I stopped at LAX a while ago on the way to NZ and didn't pass through any immigration (although this was in 1999 admittedly!). I plan on doing it again in the next 2 years but will go via Singapore if the yanks want to take my prints at LAX just for having the plane refuel there.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    Shared lounges - Manchester T1, heathrow T1

    if you arrive in heathrow at T4 and then transfer to T1 via flight connections, you have to go through the fingerprinting as they share the departure lounge in T1 between domestic and International - been like that for a while - also at Manchster T3 domestic and international share the same lounge ...

    If you don't want to give them your fingerprints , you have to exit t4 and then travel to T1 outside of the airport .. What happens to your checked through luggage could be interesting ....

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    Not only T5

    If you arrive from any other flight from outside of the EU at Heathrow and you need a connecting flight to anywhere in the UK from Terminal 1, you will have your picture taken along with your prints. So what makes it different from T5? Why is it not allowed in T5 but allowed in transfers to T1? The IC should look at that too. Loads of passengers refused to be scanned but it only made the queue longer..

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    <no title>

    How long before all employers insist on fingerprinting staff for security reasons, or you're out of a job ?

    As soon as one organisation manages to get permission to fingerprint either customers or staff, the floodgates are are risk of opening.

  29. Paul

    alterior motive

    BAA bowing to the info commissioner. Possibly. Or maybe they realised this system would crash and burn in the first hour and needed a convenient excuse to back off.

  30. bobbles31

    Change of policy for the ICO needed me thinks

    Most big businesses have the attitude of "You have only broken the law, if you get caught" in other words they do things and then if there is a complaint they then change their processes to comply with the law. If there is no complaint then they carry on their merry way.

    I think that there needs to be a change of stance from the ICO whereby if you are introducing a system that manages 100,000s of people then you must get clearance from them BEFORE the system is introduced.

    This would prevent abuses such as Heathrow T5, Phorm and numerous other big ideas where the Data Protection Act is seen as secondary to a good idea.

    I mean, why let a little thing like personal freedom get in the way of a good data collection exercise.

  31. Tim

    Solution for some

    Eurostar to Paris, then fly from CDG. Avoid Heathrow, BA, BAA and all that security theatre. Flights can be a bit cheaper too.

  32. /\/\j17

    What If I Say "No"?

    Here's an interesting little question for people to ponder if this system does get introduced at some later date...

    I book a ticket from Paris to Manchester and my airline routes it with a change in Heathrow. On landing at Heathrow the plane I'm on is directed to T5.

    When I get to the top of the air stairs the man at the desk asks for my finger prints. As there is no legal requirement for me to give them I refuse.

    What happens next?

    Some form of personal escort through the airport? Do they march me back down to the aircraft and force the airline to fly me back to Paris?

  33. Anonymous Coward

    If only we had ID documents (NO Not f*in cards)

    Last time I flew we had this little thing called a passport its like a kind of identity document, used for identifying the passangers. I seem to recall several airports where passport control is at the gates after Security & Shopping err no sorry Lounge.

  34. Nick Hill

    T5 Trials

    I was on the T5 trial specifically degined to look at this.

    I overheard several people moaning at security (first point of scanning) that they did not like it, how long is it kept for etc...

    As an aside my mate and i swapped cards, it didn't pick it up.....

    ( I thought it may be the only time I get away with it without being hurled to the floor!)

    Otherwise T5 is the dogs nads :)

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