US wants all your fingerprints

Digital crackdown

Brits planning a trip to the US will now have to surrender all 10 of their digits to the authorities for fingerprinting. The prints will then be added to the same FBI database which stores the prints of convicted criminals.

Trials are set to start at 10 airports in the UK this summer, according to a report in yesterday's Observer newspaper. But critics have warned the move will infringe people's civil rights and, worse still, lead to longer queues.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of civil rights group Liberty, told the Observer that taking fingerprints of innocent people would not deter would-be terrorists. "This must be the Keystone Cops school of border control," she said.

Meanwhile, Privacy International's Simon Davies warned that the size of the database would make false matches more likely.

A spokeswoman for the US Department of Homeland Security said the plans were about national security "post 9/11". She argued that the two digit fingerprints currently required had not deterred vistors from travelling to the US, despite predictions that it would, and that this expanded scheme would not either.

Meanwhile, secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said: "We will have a world in which any terrorist who has ever been in a safe house or has ever been in a training camp is going to ask himself or herself this question: have I ever left a fingerprint anywhere?"

This leads to our first fashion prediction of 2007: this season's cool terrorists will mostly be wearing gloves. ®

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