The Independent

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?

Name supplied

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 or tweet @simoncalde­r

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 ?? (Getty) ?? Biometric checks, ubiquitous in the US, are becoming more common in the UK and European countries
(Getty) Biometric checks, ubiquitous in the US, are becoming more common in the UK and European countries

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