FBI takes biometrics database proposal to U.K.

The agency's proposed "server in the sky" database would share biometric data on the world's most-wanted criminals.

Police in the U.K. are in talks with the FBI about establishing an international biometric database for tracking down the world's most wanted criminals and terrorists.

The so-called "server in the sky" database would share criminals' biometric data, such as fingerprints and iris scans, internationally. The Washington Post reported last month that the FBI is spending $1 billion to develop the world's largest centralized biometrics database, a system the agency calls Next Generation Identification.

The FBI suggested the database at a meeting of five countries--Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K., and the U.S.--in the International Information Consortium technology group.

The U.K.'s National Policing Improvement Agency said it was aware of the proposal and that any such system could be linked into existing law enforcement databases such as Ident1, the U.K. repository of more than 7 million pieces of biometric data from crime scenes, although there are no formal plans for such an initiative at the moment.

"The FBI are proposing this and the proposals are being discussed by the International Information Consortium group, but these are initial discussions; there are no agreements," a spokesman for the NPIA said.

The Home Office, the U.K. government department for law enforcement and public safety, also confirmed it was aware of the FBI database project as one of a "wide range of initiatives we are constantly looking at to improve our investigative capabilities."

U.S. defense company Northrop Grumman, which built the Ident1 system, also confirmed it had spoken to the FBI about the server-in-the-sky database.

The announcement of the database proposals follows the news earlier this week that the U.K. has completed a system to check the fingerprints of every visa applicant.

The FBI was unavailable to comment at publication time.

Nick Heath of Silicon.com reported from London.

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