Friday, April 30, 2010
I was gemused to read recently about the scheme being operated in Norwich (at the request of the police) by a number of second hand stores re collecting customers' thumbprints.
Customers are being asked to leave a thumbprint when trading in second-hand goods for cash, in order to stop criminals making money out of stolen items.
The police say that the prints would be kept in shops, not on any central database, and police investigating other crimes would be able to examine them.
Inspector Lisa Hooper said that the idea was to act as a deterrence to thieves from trying to sell stolen property in second-hand shops. I would venture to suggest that the thieves would simply fence their stolen booty in another area/town.
Anyhoo, Inspector Hooper said:
"The scheme will deter criminals from even trying to sell property to the shops who have signed up to the scheme, it will not affect law-abiding customers so they need not (have) fear of their thumbprint being obtained.
It is purely to put a stop to the flow of stolen goods in the city and in the second-hand shops who are the ones who feel the financial cost if stolen items are recovered by police, even though they genuinely bought the items from the customer.
We hope that customers will support the scheme and voluntarily allow their thumbprint to be taken."
All very well, maybe.
However, what happens to the thumbprint data of innocent people when it is accessed by the police?
Presumably the data has to be taken back to the police station for comparison with that of alleged criminals, and for comparison with "scene of crime" forensics data?
How secure is the data in the shops anyway, and how long do they keep it?
Are customers under any legal obligation to provide thumbprints?
The scheme seems riddled ethical and security flaws to me.
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