Passports and Fingerprints

The biometric passport in the UK has had its ups and downs over the past decade. From the US government essentially insisting on them following 9/11, on an international basis, via the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) and the US-VIST programme, through to the UK goverment attempting to push the National ID cards, despite huge opposition, until the recent shelving of plans.

In October 2004 Statewatch reported that “The Council of Justice and Home Ministers is today expected to push for fingerprints to become mandatory, in addition to facial images, for all passports and travel documents issued by EU Member States”

In October 2005 government plan was to “require fingerprints from all those applying for their first passport from [2006], with fingerprinting of those renewing existing passports to be phased in subsequently. First time applicants will have to attend one of 70 new passport offices for interview from next year, and can therefore be fingerprinted at the same time.” Reported by Pinsent Masons Outlaw

In November 2005 the price of the passports started to increase “The price of a standard UK passport is to rise by 21% to help fight fraud and boost security, the Home Office said…..The increase follows a 27% rise in the cost of a passport two years ago…The measures will also include the gradual introduction of biometric “ePassports” from February, which will include a scan of the passport holder’s facial features embedded in a chip.”

In July 2006, additional price hikes were introduced “A standard UK ten-year adult ePassport will cost £66 from 5 October {2006]”; this continued and in 2007 the Guardian reported that “The official cost of the controversial national identity card scheme has soared in the past six months by £840m, according to Home Office figures published yesterday. It means the total cost of the project is now £5.75bn.But the latest six-monthly estimate makes it clear that even this figure is far from likely to be the final bill“.

Throughout this time the UK Government continued to push for biometrics on the ePassport, including fingerprints. Despite the fact that there was no requirement under the ICAO guidelines to collect or maintain fingerprints on the passports. While the EU may be requiring the fingerprints the, there is no requirement for the UK to follow suit as UK retain an opt out from the Schengen.

Despite the soaring costs, the lack of requirement to take fingerprints, and the increased concerns about security of the data (with individuals cracking the passport security, cloning the passports, and even taking the fingerprint information off the e-passport chip), the UK government continued to push for the passports.

In 2008, the government has now  delayed the scheme until 2012, with the costs increasing again, following the publishing of the latest Identity & Passport Service cost report for the ID scheme. The report claims that the costs will reach nearly 1 billion by 2017,


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One Response to “Passports and Fingerprints”

  1. Fingerprint Errors « Data - Where is it? Says:

    […] this the UK Government is continuing to push for more fingerprint systems, from biometric passports to Project Lantern, the mobile fingerprint reading devices now being […]


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