back to article English, Welsh cops get mobile fingerprint-check tech

The National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) has rolled out mobile devices that allow the police to scan a person's fingerprints and check them against information from the national fingerprint database for verification. Known as Mobile Identification (MobileID), the technology helps police to identify individuals more …


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  1. Jonathan 10
    Big Brother


    Does anyone know the circumstances of when one of this devices can be used ? Ie random stop and searches?

    1. Is it me?

      Watch an reality cop show

      And you'll see for yourself.

      Basically they use it when they don't believe someone is giving them their correct identity. They have the legal power to force you to give one, or to take your picture, to confirm identity.

      Some forces can access the DVLA driving licence pictures.

  2. Code Monkey

    Plod can fuck off

    They'll have my fingerprints if they arrest me (I don't expect this to happen) and not before.

    1. Sam Liddicott

      I'm sure that's how it works

      I'm sure a pattern will somehow emerge where folk will give finger prints in exchange for "probably not" being arrested.

      Something like this:

      Cop: Just press your fingers onto this little box please.

      Me: I won't do it! You needn't think it!

      Cop: now then, you can give your finger prints here and it will take 5 minutes or you can come down to the station and do it.... and no I can't give you a ride back... no it won't be the local station, it will be a long long way away... yes the trains will have stopped running when I'm done with you?

      Me: I'm not planning to go to the station with you

      Cop: You want arresting, eh?

      Me: No; I've done nothing wrong

      Cop: A likely story. How about interfering with a policeman performing his duty.

      Me: It's not your duty to make me give you fingerprints.

      Cop: Do you want me to actually find something you've done wrong? You're bound to have broken a law or two today...

      I think a beginner cop knows how to engineer a resisting arrest which they then arrest you for even when they had no other charge to arrest you on.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Even easier

        Cop: Just press your fingers onto this little box please.

        Me: I won't do it! You needn't think it!

        Cop: Then go home. Now.

        Me: No.

        Cop: You are now under arrest for refusing a lawful order from an officer. And as part of that you'd going to have your finger-prints and DNA taken. By force. It's all to keep the communities safe.

        1. Intractable Potsherd

          Regrettably ...

          ... the two examples of how it will work are probably true. It just isn't possible to get the police to do the job they were set up to do any more - it is all about power and the ability to force people to do what plod/plodette feels like, so that their inadequate egos can get a boost. There is no element of needing a real reason. Constable Savage was supposed to be a joke, not a role model!

  3. Solomon Grundy

    Better Solution

    The best way to deal with identification is a National ID card! Consider how much more effecient that would be than having the police drag about complicated technology that probably won't work after being slathered with donut glaze anyway.

    1. Intractable Potsherd
      Thumb Up

      I'll give you the benefit of the doubt ...

      ... and go with the implied <sarcasm> tag.

  4. h4rm0ny

    I'm fine with this, here, let me hold up a finger for you!

    It ultimately comes down to a balance of power. Those who trust the police to be good, above petty human failings and always on their side are fine with them having a greater proportion of power over people. And all the rest of humanity looks at steadily increasing police power and feels anxious.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A few questions

    1) What is the false-negative rate?

    2) What is the false-positive rate?

    3) What actions are taken in the even of a positive? Is it a presumption of guilt before innocence?

    4) What happens when one refuses?

    5a) Do the devices record the print scanned beyond what is required for the look-up?

    5b) What guarantees do we have that these devices will not be used to create a more complete database?

    We must remember that the UK is a country which thinks it OK to finger-print children in school, to hold the DNA profiles of innocent people (contrary to EU rulings), councils to spy on residents and police think it fine to abuse authority by demanding cameras from photographers etc.

    The best way to make communities safer is to have better controls over the use and sanctions for the abuse of power.

    My greatest worry is not some criminal, but the increasing draconian powers being granted to forces/councils. We are making the weapons of our own suppression, driven by unfounded media-fuelled fear.

  6. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

    Finger print

    Shame it looks like a usb fingerprint scanner taped to on to the back of a blackberry, oh wait it is (The one I saw on ITV morning news certainly did).

    1. Vic

      Re: let me hold up a finger for you

      > Those who trust the police to be good

      Of course the Police are trustworthy.

      Just look how long it's been since the head of any Plod service has had to resign...


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        But the point is that they have resigned and they publicise it. Policing has come on a long way since the 70s/80s, it's not perfect but it's a hell of a lot better than it was and senior police do seem to make very real efforts to weed out corruption and bad practice.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I assume...

      I assume, if there is a fals positive, the same thing that happens now happens, ie: They take a trip down the station.

      I would also imagine that the devices aren't taking full fingerprint sets and aren't storing or transmitting bitmaps of fingerprints, rather numerical representations. This would not be suitable for putting into a database.

  7. andy gibson

    @ code monkey

    Maybe you'd think otherwise if someone was masquerading as you to avoid prosecution for a crime, just like the bloke on that fly on the police-car show on Channel 5. He was stopped for driving offences and gave a false name. The cops used the fingerprint gadget on him and soon found out the truth.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    How long will it be...

    Before this sort of device can be bought by the likes of defence related companies, plugged into their networks and, using a secure access process, link to the ID register to assure that the person a the gate is who they purport to be?

    Or am I a few steps ahead of myself here?...

  9. Anonymous Coward


    Ah, I forgot that just being anonymous meant you are automatically a criminal. You're bound to be up to something naughty, they just haven't caught you yet.

    If they compare your fingerprints against a database and don't find a match, will they be added? How would you know?

    Mr Paranoid (or am I?)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The scanners are...

      ...depressingly easy to fool. Just ask Mythbusters.

      1. neb

        The scanners are...

        ...not as easy to fool as you think, especially if its finger vein tech?

        even to fool a standard scanner you'd have to be wearing 'false' prints permanently - just on the off chance of a tug, and don't think the 7even approach of slicing off your prints daily would work as they'd lift you straight off!

        i wants one though to play with, link it to the beer fridge to deny access to the wife & kids!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          re: fingerprint scanner on the beer fridge

          If your wife doesn't have access how on earth is she going to restock it for you?

          1. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge


            I just use a one way door. She stack, it gets ingested into the fridge. Simple really.

        2. Argus Tuft

          re: The scanner are...

          "i wants one though to play with, link it to the beer fridge to deny access to the wife & kids"

          that can't work - how's she going to fetch you a fresh one while you're safely ensconced in front of the telly?

          1. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge
            Thumb Up


            and that is the cunning one. Having cut off my fore finger, I hand it over to her every time I want a beer.

    2. Brian 6


      "If they compare your fingerprints against a database and don't find a match, will they be added? How would you know?".........No they wouldn't

      1. Intractable Potsherd

        @Brian 6

        There is a lot of certainty in your answer. Are you believing the press, or do you *know* beyond reasonable doubt form some other reliable source that it is the case? If so, what is the source?

        No, I don't trust them.

    3. neb

      @How long will it be...

      They're already in use with some defense firms & doughnut shaped organisations, pretty simple to set them up

    4. Is it me?

      Actually a few steps behind

      Been in data centres for at least 10 years.

    5. Is it me?

      Actually a few steps behind

      Been around for at least 10 years.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    They can have my prints

    ...when they take them from my cold, dead hands.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      In the UK

      there are quite a number of plods who'd be willing to take you up on that.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    Isn't this just the deployment of the existing Lantern device already 'piloted' (or introduced by the back door) to 28 forces. It's been in regular use since about 2006 I believe. So big deal they got a better version. Whoop de do.

    If you haven't been convicted of anything you should not (hmmm) be on the database. However mission creep these things have a tendency to spread don't they.

    The useful idiots say 'if you've nothing to hide you've nothing to fear'. I'm sure the many victims of Police ineptitude, inefficiency and vindictiveness would concur. Add corruption to that and I truly despair for this country. Now I see bloody fools screaming for State regulation of the free press. Truly we have become a crapwit nation.

    1. Vic

      Re: Meh

      > 'if you've nothing to hide you've nothing to fear'

      Wasn't that re-phrased into the slightly more accurate "If you've nothing to hide, and you're not Brazilian, you've nothing to fear" ?


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Down

        Try re-reading what I wrote.

        You missed out a bit 'The useful idiots.....'

        You have incorrectly implied that I agreed with 'nothing to hide..' etc...whereas had you read the lot you would have seen that I was pouring scorn on it. Simply put I agree with what you say but I said it first.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Ahh, my failing memory.

      Beat me to it, I was trying to remember the name of that gadget.

      I know I'm not on the database, at least not under any name other than 'engineer test'.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down


      It has. And with a number of problems, partially related to the supposed requirements of security (bluetooth bonding) and borrowing (assuming that UK officers work the same way as US officers - who normally have a car attached to the device - a little power doncha no) it is not entirely convincing. Having been asked to look at reviews of its use and trial, I was singularly unconvinced that either the trials demonstrated value for money or even that the officers involverd were persuaded that they might.

  12. blofse

    So what do they do with the data for the scanned in fingar print?

    Does that go on a database or is that uploaded? If uploaded, innocent until proven guilty is becoming eroded.

    DNA next. Rather have finger print than DNA though - DNA's my secret and my IPR! I own me!

    Time to wear some funky latex gloves with anonymous finger prints... well in public anyway :-)

    Mind you, if bought from the net could be already linked to a crime - whoops...

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Nice idea..

      Now where do i get a set of Rupert Murdoch fingerprints from?

    2. Intractable Potsherd

      @blofse - "DNA's my secret ..."

      DNA isn't really secret. In the same way as fingerprints are left all over the place, you are shedding DNA from skin and saliva all over the place. All it takes is something clean enough, and your DNA can be profiled without you even knowing it.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down


      Mobile DNA is next. The appropriate miniaturised microwave devices are coming on line and mobile DNA (crude attempt to a signature within 5 minutes) is already being demonstrated.

  13. Christoph Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Let him prove it first

    Why should I co-operate with someone who is impersonating a police officer? I require conclusive proof of his identity first. And not some easily forged 'warrant card' - if my identity documents are not good enough then neither are his.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What you do is...

      If you aren't sure that a police officer is who he says he is you can:

      a) If pulled over in a car, tell the police office that you don't believe he is genuine and that you'll drive to the nearest police station, with them following and don't make any stupid moves.

      b) Call up the Police on your mobile and ask them that the person in front of you is who he says he is - easier if you have the local incident room number in your phone.

      It's not very likely that these will work if you take the piss though, be polite and courteous.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    If they say

    Err on the side of caution, "better a few guilty go free than innocents hung"

    I bet the ripper victims feel so much better that the plod let him go twice!!

    They'll never get the balance right, if the phone hacking had caught Milly or Rachel's murderer then we'd all be reading NOtW still, as it didnt we pillory the guilty.

    At the end of it all, we still only catch XYZ% of criminals, no matter how good the tech, then the EU tell us to let them carry on commiting crime and compensate them for catching them....long as we keep them in Blighty so the EU are safe

  15. Anonymous Coward

    /me sneaks off to the local supermarket

    To purchase lots of pineapples.

  16. mark l 2 Silver badge

    finger prints

    A few years ago when i was working for a company that required CRB checks on all new employees we found out that one applicant for a jon was apparently serving time in prison for armed robbery!

    Obviously something was a miss so when it was further investigate it was found that someone who committed the robbery and was caught gave fake details belonging to someone else and was tried and sentenced and had already done 2 years before the fake details came to light. If the innocent guy whos details were used hadn't applied for a job requiring a CRB check it may have never come to light. So it goes to show that what on the PNC is not necessarily accurate so makes you wonder how good a mobile finger print scanner actually is in matching fingerprints compared to the ones in the police station which costs tens of thousands of pounds.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Usual Hysteria

    The Metropolitan police nearly wasn't formed in the 1800's due to protests in Parliament that they would somehow be used to repress the populous and support a totalitarian government, it was felt the existing system at that time of night watchman, usually retired old men (the original "old Bill") was more than adequate.

    Telling adults they can't do something the law says they can't, or that they are behaving like total prats has never been easy.

    Fact of the matter is most police officers are far too busy trying to do their job rather than conspiring with the Government to enslave humanity, and if this reader makes it easier to do that job then so much the better.

    Most of us have the capability to do "evil" in our day to day jobs, (BOFH made a career out of it!), but how many of us actually do?, and who can be bothered?, it's the same for the Police

    1. Intractable Potsherd

      Of course ...

      ... after all, the right person is always found and convicted. There are never any mistakes, police officers are not racist, and they don't take a dislike to people based on entirely unprofessional reasons. Not one person has ever had legitimate cause to criticise the actions of those fine upstanding boys and girls in paramilitary uniforms, because they would die rather than sully their honour by being anything other than entirely objective. Never once have they collected ID information just for the sake of it, and all those people that have never been charged but have their DNA on a database are figments of the imagination.

      Sorry, AC, nice as it is to read someone that still believes that Dixon of Dock Green is real life, events have proved you wrong time after time.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Of course

        There will always be mistakes, there will always be errors as we are dealing with humans not saints or robots, even if we had intelligent robots enforcing the law the same things will still happen.

        There will always be someone somewhere who will want to collect just that little bit more information either to be evil or not, or just not thinking about how it appears (look how many times Facebook get flamed for that!).

        You have to ask yourself how bad are the UK police really, and before you go off on another rant consider how someone from Russia or Africa, or even Japan may view them in comparison.

        People who moan about the imperfections of the police are also usually the ones to cry loudest when they get burgled, robbed or assaulted.

        If the UK Police are so irredeemably bad what do you suggest in their place?

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