Big Brother is watching…and photographing…and fingerprinting

Green MP Keith Locke is warning that US plans to fingerprint and photograph everyone visiting that country could lead to a universal ID system, with huge ramifications for individual freedoms and human rights.

The Bush administration has announced that from September 30th, citizens of 27 countries – including Britain, New Zealand and Australia – who had been allowed to travel within the United States without a visa for up to 90 days, will now be fingerprinted and photographed when they enter the country.

“Fingerprinting is for people accused of a crime, not law-abiding citizens,” said Mr Locke, the Green Party’s Human Rights spokesperson. “Do we really want to see a universal ID card, with everyone’s fingerprint and facial recognition characteristics built into a chip?

“This action takes us further down the road of ‘Big Brother’ state surveillance. It will provide the US with a huge international database of personal information which could easily be misused or passed on to other agencies or governments.

“New Zealand should be joining those countries who are protesting these measures, perhaps even joining Brazil, which has fingerprinted American visitors in retaliation for the US move.

“So far, the New Zealand government has been meekly complying with American demands in this area and trying to meet that country’s October 26th deadline for biometric details to be inserted in a chip on every New Zealand passport.

“The indications have been that digital facial recognition characteristics will be put on the chip, but after yesterday’s announcement it is likely New Zealand will be told to include fingerprints as well.

“These measures intrude not only on the privacy of New Zealanders visiting America but also the thousands of us forced to stop over there en-route to other destinations,” said Mr Locke. “In the short-term, this might impact on passenger numbers flying via the US, in the long-term it’s another ominous intrusion into our personal privacy.”