Will fingerprint checks soon be at every airport?
Q I have worked on a farm all my life and as a result my fingerprints have become eroded. On a recent trip to the US the Customs and Border Protection officer attempted to fingerprint me over a period of 20 minutes. He asked many questions – place of birth, maiden name, etc. Only when I explained my job did he breathe a sigh of relief and say that explained things. Is
this problem likely to occur again, possibly in more far-flung places with different languages and cultures?
A Most annoyingly, things are not going to get easier for people in your position over the next couple of years – although in the longer term, I am hopeful that your face will tell frontier officials everything they need to know about you.
Fingerprinting used to be most unusual in the context of travel; during the 20th century the only time it happened to me was when registering for a “driveway” – the opportunity to deliver someone’s car across America. But in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, in which the perpetrators were legally admitted into the US, formalities were strengthened – including the need for fingerprints.
Many other countries have imposed biometric checks, and from 2023 – as the UK government requested through the Brexit treaty – the European Union will require British and other visitors to be fingerprinted on arrival. As with the US and other countries, the check comes with a facial biometric. I hope that the algorithm behind the new EU “Entry Exit System” proves more tolerant of your “eroded” fingerprints than the American version.
Longer term, though, I am confident there will be more focus on face rather than fingers. With the exception of some identical twins, technology is now able to differentiate between us all – using measurements of the spacing of the eyes and the bridge of the nose, the contours of the lips and chins and, crucially, the shape of ears.
As the transportation security firm Thales says: “We recognise ourselves not by looking at our fingerprints or irises, for example, but by looking at our faces.”
While we await the march of progress (and possibly feel concerned about the intrusion into our privacy), I hope the US officials who dealt with you put a note on your record about the
fingerprint issue to save you time and trouble next time you travel to America.
Email your question to email@example.com or tweet @simoncalder
Want your views to be included in The Independent Daily Edition letters page? Email us by tapping here firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your address
BACK TO TOP