Handheld Fingerprint Scans Raise Privacy Concerns


Next month, 13 North Carolina law enforcement agencies will begin using a new handheld device that lets an officer scan a person’s fingerprints and seek a match in an electronic database – all without going anywhere, says the Raleigh News & Observer. Police say taking fingerprints in the field will allow them to work more efficiently and safely. The American Civil Liberties Union worries that the device may allow officers to violate privacy rights.

The ACLU is concerned about what will become of fingerprint scans that are sent to other databases, such as the National Crime Information Center. “Part of the danger is the idea of the government creating a database on its citizens,” said Sarah Preston of ACLU North Carolina. “Citizens should be allowed some degree of privacy.” Those concerns are unwarranted, said Sam Pennica of the City-County Bureau of Identification, the agency that processes fingerprints in Wake County and is providing the devices to local agencies. The software for the device, known as Rapid Identification COPS Technology, would not store fingerprints of any individuals, even those charged with a crime, Pennica said.

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