Why Has My Son Been Fingerprinted?

My six year-old son went on a trip to the park today with his holiday playgroup. There were various activities there, and among them it seems the Met were hosting some kind of “meet the Police” event. Part of this appears to have involved his fingerprint being taken.

What the hell is this about? He describes it as being something the policemen did “for fun” – but I’m not laughing.

I don’t know (and I need to ask the teachers who were at the event) whether the police kept a record of this print, what was said about it, or whether anyone other than my son was asked about it. The fact that the “certificate” he received (which I found in his bag when he came back) is glaringly unsigned adds insult to injury. There’s no contact details, no reason, nothing on the back of the paper… nothing.

Talk about sleepwalking into a surveillance society. The police randomly fingerprinting six year-olds? You couldn’t make this up!

10 thoughts on “Why Has My Son Been Fingerprinted?”

  1. So finger printing is fine, but had someone brought out a camera all hell would have broken loose… yay sanity!

  2. Umm… I think you’re over-reacting wildly here. I remember being fingerprinted at a similar event when I was about the same age – so that’s the best part of 35 years ago. “We’re the police, these are the kind of things we do, would you like to see how we take fingeprints? OK – here’s your fingerprint on a little cerificate. Maybe you’d like to be a policeman when you grow up?”

  3. 35 years ago, mine would have been an over-reaction. The problem is things have moved on rather since that time.

    The police now have the ability to use fingerprints in a completely different way than in the past. The same applies to any data they have about you. Methods of information retrieval in the past provided their own break on indiscriminate collection and processing. Now, millions of records can be searched by any old plod in seconds, and the potential for mistakes, bogus associations and abuse are far, far greater.

    If the taking of fingerprints is associated with triviality, where does it stop? “We’re the police, these are the kind of things we do, would you like to see how we shoot bad people? OK – here’s a Heckler & Koch MP5, cool isn’t it?”

    There is an insidious effect here. It’s just wrong. Things are different now.

  4. I have to agree with Rich. I’m also a little unclear about your objection – is it your son’s privacy, the police promoting fingerprinting as being a good thing, or the concern that the police have stored your son’s print and are now cross checking the fingerprints they’ve taken against a terrorist database?

    If your concern is about your son’s privacy, should you really have the certificate, complete with your son’s name, fingerprint, and location on your blog?

  5. I object because of the principle of the thing, as I’ve explained in my reply to Rich. Fingerprinting is a serious business. Making kids think it’s about trivial fun and games is similar to doing the same about other serious things like shooting people.

    There is no privacy issue with posting the certificate on my blog. What makes you think there is?

  6. Jonathan if you are seriously concerned I would ring the Met and ask. I doubt it was anything more than an introduction for children into the role of police within society.

    I just saw Taking Liberties http://www.noliberties.com/synopsis.htm which I have to say was truly truly shocking. It demonstrates how civil liberties are being eroded – through the totally erroneous interpretation of laws aimed at terrorism by the courts, local and central government, police and business.

    To me it really shows that we do need to be vigilant as the right to protest, a fair trial etc have been undermined by the grinning, spinning loon that is and was Tony Blair.

    By the way I bumped into Gordon Brown yesterday at Waterloo – on his way to Dorset. Then saw Tim Burton in Southampton Row!

  7. My children were likewise fingerprinted at the school fete – or rather, they used their fingers to make a print on a piece of paper that they (and no-one else) took away with them.

    A couple of years ago, I’d have been with you – now I have an almost opposite view to yours about privacy!

    I’d be happy for the police to maintain my fingerprints, and for that matter to have access to the live feeds from several cameras covering my street…

    PROVIDED (and this is important), I had access to the logs that identified everyone (including police, civil servants and politicians) accessing this information.

    Transparency, to my mind, provides a better solution than anonymity. (The Transparent Society by David Brin changed my views completely.)

  8. I would be as concerned as you if one of my children had been finger printed at that age or any age without a good reason and my consent.

    If the print is only on the paper, and not saved in some data bank somewhere, that’s not so bad, but even then the actual taking of the print is putting it into childrens minds that it’s not a bad thing, that it’s a matter of course to have this done. Perhaps so that in the future we’ll be a society who accept this kind of intrusion without a second thought.

    Our civil liberties are being eroded to a massive degree because of media hype and moral panics, and I think we should be very aware of this and protest at every opportunity to make sure that they don’t get eroded further without a fight.

    I’ll probably be accused of over reaction but you just have to look around to see that we’re fast losing our civil liberties and we’re allowing it because we’re told we’re fighting som unknown enemy, but in my opinion, the enemy is very often our own state.

  9. There are certainly some interesting perspectives on this. To be honest, I’d expected more people to have reactions similar to my own.

    Whether or not getting my son to put his fingerprint on a piece of paper without my (or his guardians’) consent was actually a breach of his privacy is not really what I’m angry about. I don’t have any other facts to go on, after all. What worries me is the principle of it: I think Zenfrog is right in that respect.

    Incidentally, I can see how the ideas in The Transparent Society are tempting. Unfortunately, there is not now (and perhaps never will be) any way of “logging” who is using your data, so implying we should give it all away now just in case somebody invents and maintains such a thing is – frankly – just stupid. Life would be wonderful if we all had jet packs running on unlimited free energy too, but we don’t, so we have to deal with what’s real.

  10. To me, (as someone living outside UK), it sounds quite strange that this is supposed to be a joke — “Here’s how we take fingerprints”.

    Still, maybe it is a joke… nothing serious.

    I don’t know. As I said, I live outside UK, and in my city there are no more than 10-20 cameras in public places (yes, I’ve been to London, yes, I’ve seen the thousands of cctv’s you have…)

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