US airport fingerprinting - paranoid much?

· by Steve · Read in about 3 min · (471 Words)

I just read today that US airports are going to start taking all 10 fingerprints from visitors instead of the 2 they’ve been taking in recent years - which in itself was quite surprising to me when I got there last year. Seems clutching a British passport doesn’t mean much anymore. This is apparently going to help them catch more terrorists, on top of the 34 pieces of personal information they make airlines hand over about passengers on inbound flights.

Now, I know 9/11 was a really big deal, but isn’t this going a bit far? We in Europe are already a bit uncomfortable with the way the US authorities handle personal data, since they don’t have an equivalent of the Data Protection Act which protects personal data in the UK, and seem to like strongarming their way into whatever bits of information they like - those 34 pieces of information were basically forced from the airlines, who really didn’t like handing it over because of the personal data protections in other juristictions, but were told they couldn’t land in the US if they didn’t. What exactly are they going to do with all this data? They don’t have to tell us of course, which is a large part of the problem. I’m not a terrorist but I don’t like the idea of the US authorities playing fast and loose with my personal information.

Other countries have figured out / are figuring out ways of balancing the threat of terrorism against the rights of society and individuals, and although in the current climate there have been other instances of knee-jerk laws, the US authorities seem to have really gone the whole hog and don’t appear to have any intention of stopping. Perhaps it’s because 9/11 was such a shock to the system, and the authorities just went bananas (understandably so, given that 9/11 was easily the most terrible single attack ever). Other countries have had endemic terrorism for decades - rather ironically some of it funded from certain sympathetic sources in the US in the case of Northern Ireland, although we’re all getting over that now - which has allowed coping strategies to be developed, albeit in need of adjustment when faced with suicide terrorism. In the years that followed though, you would have expected some tempering / rationalising of the US position, a slow return to sanity perhaps - yet we still have cases where the authorities just toss out the rule book (Guantanamo bay, secret CIA interrogation sites) whenever they feel it’s justified - but really it never is. You can’t claim to be the land of the free and the worlds greatest democracy on the one hand, but trample over all the rights that underpin that in the name of security on the other. Where is the balance?