Finland wants to use fingerprints to track down criminals

Finland wants to fight crime by using fingerprints stored on passports and identity cards. The crime must be serious enough to qualify. The Ministry of the Interior is now investigating whether this is possible with the current European privacy rules.

That writes the Finnish site YLE News.

A new situation

In 2014, the ministry already investigated whether fingerprints could be used to track down crooks. At the time, researchers concluded that fingerprints from passports should not be used for detection. The Finnish Constitutional Law Committee did not want to burn its fingers.

The case is now being re-examined. Last year, the use of biometric data – such as fingerprints – was again discussed in the Finnish parliament. The reason for this was the amendment of the EU directive for the processing of biometric data by the police.

Due to this adjustment, the situation may now be completely different, an employee of the Ministry of the Interior told YLE News. That is why the department is having the matter re-examined.

Doubts about biometric identification technologies

The researchers are also looking at identification options based on biometric photos. This may allow automatic identification using facial recognition.

In the Netherlands and abroad, the use of real-time facial recognition by facial recognition technology is a hot topic. Opponents are afraid that this is the prelude to the establishment of a surveillance society. US tech companies and advocacy groups such as IBMAmazon and EFF have argued that facial recognition technology may promote discrimination, racial inequality and ethnic profiling.

 In Finland, too, not everyone is eager to use biometric data to fight crime. Professor of public law Tomi Voutilainen thinks that using these identifiers for crime prevention is problematic. “If the police processed our biometric data continuously, regularly, automatically and en masse, we would all be suspected of a crime. We must not end up in that situation,” he told YLE News.

Finnish police are in favour

If it is up to the Ministry of the Interior, biometric data may only be used for the detection of serious crimes, such as murder, attempted murder, rape or a terrorist attack. Voutilainen argues that the use of fingerprints on passports and other identity documents should only be used if the range of crimes is limited. At the same time, he warns that even then fingerprints on passports will be regularly used to solve crimes.

The Finnish police are in favour of the proposal. In fact, the police advocate that the investigation also examines whether it is allowed to collect fingerprints from foreigners. The report will most likely be published in September.

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