10 March 2008

Fingerprinting in airports

Fingerprinting of all air travelers is coming, and it is coming fast.
At the end of 2007 the Japanese government began fingerprinting all foreigners arriving in Japan by air.
The British are experimenting with double-checking fingerprints of air travelers with visas at Gatwick airport. Right now only people from Sierra Leone are checked, but all visa travelers to the UK are already fingerprinted in order to acquire a visa. I expect the Brits will soon roll out a system in all their airports to check all visa holders' fingerprints against those taken during the visa application process.
In the USA the border security department requires fingerprints from most foreigners, not including Canadians, Mexicans, and Bermudians. So far this has been limited to one and two fingers, but recently the US rolled out an experimental system to collect all ten fingerprints from foreign travelers at ten large airports.
France is using a fingerprint card to allow some French travelers fast access to airport gates.
For the most part Canadians have been exempt from such police-state measures. However, as borders become harder to cross, and as government paranoia increases, fingerprinting will become more and more common. Privacy is dying. We have sadly come a long way since the days when ordinary people did not need passports to cross frontiers: hundreds of years ago passports were reserved for diplomats.