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Kistaro Windrider, Reptillian Situation Assessor

Unfortunately, I Really Am That Nerdy

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It's For Your Protection, Citizen
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kistaro
Is there any kidnapped/lost child anywhere in the history of the program who was rescued by police as the result of information gathered in a "voluntary" fingerprint-your-children program who would not have been rescued without that data, because that data cannot otherwise be produced or cannot be produced in time? The King County Police Department just solicited me for a donation for it. The reason I gave when I declined was that I didn't feel comfortable being charitable in this economy; my real reason is my privacy-advocate position.

I remember that program from when I was in elementary school, and in fact kindergarten and pre-kindergarten. It wasn't presented as voluntary. It wasn't something aggressive or scary, it was just something that was done, but there was no opt-out; it was simply a normal thing to be fingerprinted, photographed, weighed, measured, and then sent onwards to the playground. We were told, as I was told now, that it was so the police could identify us in case of some form of emergency.

So the police have my fingerprints on file, where I'm vulnerable to the astonishingly remote and improbable chance that someone with fingerprints similar to mine will commit some crime and I'll get matched in a shape-matching database, or the more likely (but still improbable) scenario that the government will, for some reason, use it to track me. Is there any realistic chance that the data will be used against me? Because I am a well-mannered white guy working an office job, no. But that doesn't matter.

I never really had a choice. Sure, it's "voluntary", but I know I was never told that. The parents weren't informed before the program. And as a privacy advocate, I am, in retrospect, uncomfortable with the government having information about me they don't really need (my fingerprints) for situations that are likely to help me. Has a kidnapped person ever been found by their fingerprints?

I guess that's why I don't really support the program: those who participate in it aren't given informed consent, aren't at an age where they're likely to understand privacy issues, and aren't likely to get any benefit out of it other than give the police a slightly easier time tracking them down if they eventually need to get hauled off to juvenile detention.

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Thank you for the thought-provoking post. I'd never given childhood fingerprinting much thought, until now. I find myself thinking your privacy concerns are quite valid.
To my knowledge, such as it is, no kidnapped kids have ever been found by their fingerprints; it's always a -photo- that seems to do it.


Depends on what you mean by "found". I expect the situation in which it's the most useful is when a corpse turns up and they want to identify who it was.

Maybe the child fingerprinting program you went through as a child put your information in a database for police use. For the child fingerprinting programs I've seen in the past 10 years, (in NY, MA, and VA) it works differently. The police usually don't keep the kids' pictures, and they never keep their fingerprints. I don't think the connection of name and photograph is a privacy violation, considering that school pictures and yearbooks are so accepted. It's all paper records, not electronic, and the picture, measurement, and fingerprints go to the parent. If the kid turns up missing someday, and the parents go to the police for help, that's when the parents dig the little folder of information out of a box and give it to the police to help them search. Most families never need it, and the parents just keep it (or it gets forgotten in a box of old papers from when the kid was in preschool.)

I remember that when I was in elementary school and kindergarten, I had to provide three sets of fingerprints. One was taken home, one was kept at the school, and one was retained by the police.

No evidence that fingerprints ever helped "find" someone who had been kidnapped. They have been used, however, to identify such people years after they disappeared. For instance a two year old who was "snatched" and raised elsewhere under a different name can be matched back up to their original identity. Chances of this actually happening are extremely slim, but it has in fact happened.

They are also used sometimes to identify corpses. Whoopie.

My fingerprints are on file because I once worked for the Federal Reserve Bank as a database administrator. ;p They routinely fingerprint all employees, though I really can't imagine why.

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