The UK is to share fingerprint information with Canada and Australia, with the US and New Zealand to follow soon, the Home Office said today.
The new data-sharing agreement is aimed at fighting identity fraud, the Home Office said in a statement. It is a product of the Five Country Conference on immigration and border control.
It said the US will be joining shortly and New Zealand is to consider legislation to join in the near future.
For the first year each country will be able to share and check 3,000 sets of fingerprints with partner countries. This will let them explore the feasibility of routine information sharing, the Home Office said.
UK Border Agency deputy chief executive Jonathan Sedgwick said the checks would complement ones they already share with European partners. Trials had already shown results, he said.
"This new agreement will help us identify and remove individuals whose identities were previously unknown but also improve public safety through better detection of lawbreakers and those coming to the UK for no good."
The Home Office said an individual who claimed asylum in the UK as a Somali was found to have been fingerprinted in the US while travelling on an Australian passport. Australia subsequently confirmed he was an Australian citizen wanted by police on a charge of rape. The US deported him to Australia, where he was tried and jailed.
Measures to protect privacy include:
- Ensuring all fingerprints are anonymous and cannot be linked to an individual unless a match is detected between countries.
- Destroying fingerprints once a match made, with no fingerprint database being compiled.
- Using encryption and other security tools to protect shared files.
The UK Border Agency published a privacy impact assessment that sets out how the arrangement will operate.