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    Location: Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom

    I am the owner and managing director of Information Automation Limited (IAL), a company that specialises in research, consultancy and training for the information profession. We are particularly interested in all forms of electronic information resources (e-journals, e-books, etc) and I teach a course in electronic publishing at the Department of Information Studies in Aberystwyth. Drilling down still further(!), my interests centre on the quality and evaluation of electronic information, and in the thinking that underpins activities in library and information science.


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    Friday, March 16, 2007

    Civil liberties and 'function creep'

    The Times reported today: Central fingerprint database plan draws fire from all over EU.

    If I remember rightly, the new ePassport (and hence the National Identity Register - NIR) are to contain biometric data (that means fingerprints plus some other stuff), so never mind the recently reported moves to enable the police to take fingerprints from suspects on the street with portable devices, given time enough, the fingerprints of every man, woman and child in the UK will presumably be transferred to (or shared with) this central fingerprint database.

    There are those of us who regard the storing of our fingerprints for use within the UK as an invasion of civil liberties, you can guess what we feel now! Especially given the sentence in The Times' report:

    The officials were reluctant to say if the fingerprints, from all 27 countries, would be made available to allies such as the United States in the fight against crime and terrorism, in the same way as airline passenger information.

    So that's airline passenger information, your bank accounts (see the February Register report), and now your fingerprints being made available to pretty much everyone in the so-called 'fight against terror'. The Information Commissioner worried about function creep when the NIR was first talked about - it looks as though he should have worried about 'data galloping'...

    [In fairness, I should say that the European Parliament is against the transfer of financial data to the States and adopted a resolution in February, for the Swift system to stop storing data in the US. However, they are undecided about fingerprint sharing!]

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