The claim is that, currently, these are only used to save trips back to the Police station for fingerprint identification purposes, and that the fingerprints are not stored to be used as evidence.
This may well be true, and it is to be welcomed in terms of providing more Police resources on the street, instead of back at the Police station or in transit.
However, we want to be reassured about what happens to the digital fingerprint minutiae i.e. the encoded pattern of characteristic ridges, whorls etc. which are derived from the digitised fingerprint image.
These are what the database searches actually use, not the raw images of finger prints. How can we be sure that these fingerprint minutiae, many of which will inevitably be taken from innocent motorists, with no criminal record, who are not arrested or charged with any crime, are actually destroyed ?
Who independently audits the destruction of these fingerprint images and of their derived digital fingerprint minutiae ?
(obviously our use of the word "digital" means "digital computer" rather than "finger" or "toe")
Just because these systems are first being trialled with mobile ANPR roadside checkpoints, does not mean that that is their only planned use, as the BBC article says that British Transport Police are going to be issued with these systems as well, and there is not much opportunity for ANPR on the railways.
What happens when you are are stopped and searched either on foot or in a vehicle, under the notorious Terrorism Act 2000 section 44 ? Will your digital fingerprint minutiae be matched against secret terrorist blacklists held by the Security Service or the Police Counter-terrorism Command etc? Will they destroy ever destroy these digital fingerprint minutiae and the details of the time and location of the stop and search , even when the Police find nothing, which is what happens in the vast majority of these without "reasonable suspicion" stops and searches ?
We have asked similar questions about Automatic Number Plate Recognition systems like the London Congestion Charge scheme, where the images of your car number plate are thrown away after 24 hours or so, but the number which has been scanned and read from them is not.
Similarly "DNA fingerprints" are matched on databases because they are a string of numbers representing each allele or genetic sequence marker which has been processed and read, The "DNA fingerprints" of innocent people were retained illegally for several years, before the Labour Government, instead of prosecuting the bueaucrats and officials involved, simply changed the law to cover up this illegality, and to permit it to continue to this day, and into the future.
How can they be trusted not to do the same with digital fingerprint minutiae ?
The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 section 117 Fingerprints and footwear impressions amends the Police and Criminal Evidence Act to allow these roadside fingerprint scanners to be used, but not as evidence, only for identification purposes.
However, the weasel words about the destruction of "fingerprints" does not specifically mention digital fingerprint minutiae:
"(1BA) Fingerprints taken from a person by virtue of section 61(6A) above must be destroyed as soon as they have fulfilled the purpose for which they were taken."
How can we be sure that this is happening, not just in the handheld device itself, but throughout the mobile phone and computer networks involved in the fingerprint lookups and matching of records in the National Automated Fingerprint System (IDENT1) and the Police National Computer (PNC) ?
What about the other systems to which these devices are already in the process of being linked to i.e. Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND), Facial Images National Database (FIND) and Intelligence Management, Prioritisation, Analysis, Co-ordination and Tasking (IMPACT) ?
If you do not appear on any of these databases, what is there to prevent the Police from using the powers given to them in the Identity Cards Act 2006 section 18 Prevention and detection of crime, to try to match your fingerprints, without consent to those fingerprints and name and address and other records which will be held on the centralised National Identity Register ?