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Cops to scan own fingers for ID management

Police in the United Kingdom could be subject to their own biometric tests.

Police in forces around the United Kingdom could begin to use biometrics on themselves to improve identity management and data access, according to a speaker at the Biometrics 2005 conference in London.

Fred Preston, director of identification for the Police Information Technology Organisation, or PITO, said on Friday that police could be subject to biometrics tests, such as fingerprint and facial scanning, before they access criminal databases.

"It's not just law enforcement in terms of crime, it's also the business process--access to data and buildings. There are lots of police processes that rely on (identity). Biometrics is absolutely key in that," Preston said.

PITO built the National Biometric Identification Management System, an automated fingerprint and palm search tool also known as Ident1.

Preston said the U.K. could start to share criminal biometric data with other European countries.

"Ident1 could be a flexible system--it can be connected to other systems," he said. "There are lots of legislation and data protection issues, though.

"Our experience in Europe has been a reluctance to supply data to other countries but far less reluctant to interoperate with other countries. My vision is cross-country searches rather than the sharing of databases."

Without disclosing details, Preston mentioned the interoperability of databases but said he was not planning to include the entire U.K. population for criminal searches.

He added: "In terms of taxpayers' money, do we want to put in the processing power that could cope with 60 million people in this country on the same sort of searches for criminals? That is a very interesting question that could be subject to a huge business case. I'm personally not seeking to put the population on the criminal database."

Earlier this year the government announced that PITO will be replaced with a central agency that will be responsible for national projects and management of the $1.3 million spent annually on local information technology by the U.K.'s 43 police forces.