back to article West Midlands plods get mobile fingerprint tech

West Midlands police is to introduce fingerprint scanning devices, which allow officers to find out if a person is wanted by police or the courts. The force said it plans to roll out 70 hand-held MobileID devices following a successful pilot of the technology. The devices are satellite-linked to a national fingerprint database …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OK, maybe.

    If used only in situations where the police would normally have reasonable justification for demanding a person's identity (because they have an interest in a particular person who is on their system), then it is a useful idea.

    If used without reasonable suspicion then it is a step towards unacceptable (in the UK at least) demands for ID.

    Furthermore, the reports don't state what happens to the print at the server end. If it is stored along with any identity info given, then it is a sneaky expansion of the fingerprint database.

    1. Craig 12

      Re: OK, maybe.

      It states they are not stored or added after the check.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: OK, maybe.

        It is clearly stated that the device doesn't store the print and that it won't be kept for later use. But that's just the device. In the absence of a statement that the server end discards the print as soon as it's given a response to the device, I think it's legitimate to question it.

      2. ed2020

        Re: OK, maybe.

        They said something similar about the body scanners in airports.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just say no. There is no law requiring you to provide a fingerprint scan.

    1. VinceH
    2. phuzz Silver badge

      But you are required to go with the police officers to prove your identity if they tell you to, so it's a choice between sitting around at the local cop shop (and lets face it, you will be right at the back of the queue), or swiping your finger.

      Who needs new laws?!

    3. Crisp
      Big Brother

      Not providing a fingerprint scan.

      That sounds like suspicious subversive behaviour if you ask me!

      Looks like you're nicked sonny!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What guarantees do we have...

    ... that the scanned prints aren't stored, together with time and place and hey, maybe whatever name you give too (soon: a readout of your RFID ID card)? How are they going to show they're living up to the guarantee and what are they guaranteeing with, that is what'll they do if they breached it, in other words, what are their guarantees still worth? Any backing at all?

    I don't necessarily object to plod teching up, so to speak, but they haven't been exactly trustworthy in this regard. Nor has the government as a whole for that matter. You can only break so many promises before you're just not being trusted any longer, and for those with a keen insight in tech and privacy, that point is periliously close, unless passed already. Merely promising isn't good enough any longer.

    1. Crisp

      Re: What guarantees do we have...

      Absolutely none.

      As soon as the police process your DNA and fingerprints, it's on their database forever. Regardless of whether you've committed a crime or not.

      I can see this technology becoming an essential part of any police officers fishing kit.

    2. Christoph

      Re: What guarantees do we have...

      The police claim that the information isn't stored.

      If they do not, once the things are widespread, promptly start pushing for the information to be permanently stored then they will be breaking with every tradition of police behaviour for the last several decades.

  4. jake Silver badge

    Seems to me that ...

    ... I helped setup the hardware for this kind of technology in Palo Alto in roughly 1989 ...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      ... we'll just have to blame you, won't we?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    what datalink is used in UK?

    the fingerprint minutiae are quite efficient - taking around 20 kilobytes of data for both hands. The only question I have is that online print analysis is being used very widely in Spain (especially targeted at possible extra-EU illegals) but they have a data-friendly TETRAPOL terminal & network.

    In UK, with the mandated AIRWAVE (TETRA1) systems & terminals there seems to be not even the data capacity available for the odd 20kB? Maybe is GPRS the data-bearer?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: what datalink is used in UK?

      only mention of the RF tech being used was in a National Audit Office 2011 document on MobileID and ISIS - where it was stated "MobileID is a fingerprint checker connected wirelessly using an encrypted Bluetooth connection to a mobile device" so it does look like plod needs a Smartphone handy.....(Unless as El'Reg's article mentions 'satellite' connectivity - maybe a nice €50k Inmarsat BGAN or a VSAT is needed?)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Must get confusing when....

    ..stopping people in Aston, as you have an extra finger (and toe) to choose from. :-)

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    From what I have seen from my armchair policing, the plods are using blackberries with the fingerprint reader splodged on the back. I guess its definitely using 3g / GPRS to send the data.

  8. The Original Ash

    Guilty until proven innocent.

    Enough said.

  9. Graham Marsden

    If this uses GPRS...

    ... I can see problems arising.

    I have a mobile credit card processing terminal which often cannot connect to the server due to "network congestion". Apparently GPRS gets the lowest priority from phone masts, so if lots of other people want to connect using 3G etc, GRPS gets bumped to the back of the queue and has to wait.

    As more and more people get mobile devices, this can only get worse...

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