Tim Shipman – Telegraph.co.uk December 23, 2007
British visitors to the US will have details of their physical characteristics added to a new billion dollar database under plans drawn up by the FBI..
Fingerprints, iris scans and even details of the way people walk, their scars and the size and shape of their ear lobes will be collected.
British intelligence agencies and police will also be able to access the information – giving them potentially more biometric data on British citizens than the Government collects at home.
Under the plans, revealed by the Washington Post, the FBI database will include details on everyone who applies for a visa to enter the US.
Fingerprint information on British tourists is already collected and held by the US Department of Homeland Security.
But the FBI database will also include iris identification, which is being slowly introduced at some ports of entry.
Researchers at West Virginia University are working on technology for the FBI that will let them capture images of people's irises at distances of up to 15 feet, and of faces from as far away as 200 yards, without them even knowing.
The database will allow the FBI to check all entrants to the US against the faces, fingerprints, palm prints and irises of known terrorists and wanted criminals.
More than 900,000 American police and law enforcement officials will be able to access the data.
A contract to develop the database will be awarded next month. Critics say that peoples’ bodies will effectively become their international identity card – with the downside that if criminals steal your identity and were able to, for example, mimic your iris with a contact lens, you can’t just go and get a new eyeball like you would a new credit card.
Civil liberties campaigners criticised the plans. Barry Steinhardt of the American Civil Liberties Union said: "It's enabling the always-on surveillance society."
Last updated 25/12/2007