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BAA grounds Heathrow T5 fingerprinting system

Data protection forces 11th hour climbdown

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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 (BAA) said this afternoon the scheme would be put on hold until further notice.

The Information Commissioner's Office had raised concerns with BAA that the plan could breach the Data Protection Act.

BAA sent us this statement:

Following a meeting with all relevant parties, including the Information Commissioner and the Border and Immigration Agency, the introduction of fingerprinting for domestic passengers and international passengers transferring onto domestic flights at Heathrow will be temporarily delayed. BAA will be opening Terminal 5 using a photographic identification process during this time which is already in place.

We will be working closely with the Information Commissioner and the Home Office over the next few weeks to agree the best approach going forward.

Heathrow Terminal 5 is not the first in the UK where domestic and international passengers will share a departure lounge. But it is the first UK airport where the operator wanted to fingerprint everybody in a "count them all in, count them all out" process.

The ICO has asked BAA to explain why fingerprinting is needed at all. ®

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