It is welcome news that the Information Commissioner's Office is asking British Airports Authority to justify, under the Data Protection Act, the plan to force all passengers at the new Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport to submit to intrusive fingerprint scanning and photography.
As the Mail on Sunday article, with some nice photos of the new building, points out, other airports manage the "let's be greedy and mix the international transit passengers with domestic ones in our airside shopping mall" situation, which could have been prevented in the architectural design of a brand new airport terminal, and enforced simply with photography and an adequate number of staff.
The Commissioner's office says passengers ordered to give their prints should do so "under protest" and that such a scheme would normally be considered "intrusive".
It has launched an investigation into whether BAA "took account of the data protection implications of its proposal".
Unless Heathrow provides evidence that the move is necessary, the Commissioner has the power to order it to stop fingerprinting passengers or face legal action.
BAA claim that the Government has forced them to do it, presumably to try to pretend that mass fingerprint scanning is somehow a normal part of life for innocent people, and to try to soften up public opposition to the wretched Identity Cards / National Identity Register centralised database scheme.
Even if you believe that the "fingerprint data will be encrypted", why does it need to be stored for as long as 24 hours ? Why is not immediately deleted once someone has been checked at the departure gate ? What legitimate use it at any time thereafter ?
One of the top threats to National Security, even according to Gordon Brown is an influenza or other transmissible infectious disease pandemic, spread worldwide by airline travellers,
This scheme actually runs counter to the UK Government's
single overarching national security objective of protecting the United Kingdom and its interests, enabling its people to go about their daily lives freely and with confidence, in a more secure, stable, just and prosperous world.
How exactly does the increased risk of spreading infectious diseases, from having to physically touch the biohazardous scum, full of bacteria, fungal spores and viruses, which certainly will accumulate on the surfaces of the heavily used fingerprint scanning equipment , actually enhance our individual or national security ?
If doctors, nurses, dentists, tattooists etc. have to sterlise their hands before touching another person, then why should public mass transit fingerprint scanners somehow be magically immune from being sources of infection ?
If fingerprint scanning is to be used, then there needs to be an expensive human operator in attendance at each checkpoint to ensure that it is far more difficult for fake fingerprints to be used by criminals and to clean and sterlise the surfaces of the equipment to preserve public health and national and international biosecurity, however, it appears that the Terminal 5 setup is to try to use cheapskate unattended, unsterilsed fingerprint equipment.