Home Office denies CRB plans to store fingerprints

The Home Office has denied that the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) will set up a database to collect and store the fingerprints of people who apply to work...

The Home Office has denied that the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) will set up a database to collect and store the fingerprints of people who apply to work with children and vulnerable people.

A Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) spokesperson told Computer Weekly, "There are no plans for the CRB to take or retain applicants' fingerprints in a database."

Computer Weekly reported last week that the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA), which from October will keep a register of some 11 million applicants and will use CRB checks and other sources to evaluate a person's suitability for the role.

The Home Office said ISA would not be submitting applicants' fingerprints to the CRB.

It said the police already fingerprint a small number of applicants where there was an issue with verifying their identity, and check them against relevant criminal records. "The CRB is working with the police to make the process faster and easier for these applicants each year," the spokesman said.

He said only 0.04% of requests for identification were at risk. "The CRB's overall accuracy rate remains extremely high with 99.96% of disclosures issued accurately, although the CRB's aim is always to issue 100% of disclosures free from error," the spokesman said.

The government has consistently denied that fingerprints in the national identity register, which are currently collected from e-passport and identity card applications, will be linked to CRB records.

Phil Booth, national coordinator of No2ID, a privacy lobby group, said the only two databases the CRB could use are Ident 1, the CRB's database, and the National Identity Register (NIR), which is being populated as people enrol for electronic passports and national identity cards.

Booth said early documents relating to the NIS show that the government was keen to link the NIR with the CRB.

The Home Office's strategic action plan for the NIS, published in December 2006, said it had prioritised several joint projects for early development. For the CRB, it said, "The National Identity Scheme will help to make identification within the CRB process quicker, and will help with cracking down on criminals applying for jobs working with children and vulnerable adults."

Former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said in March 2008 that a trial conducted by IPS and the CRB showed that the time taken to perform a criminal records check could be cut from four weeks to as little as four days, with "extremely high levels of user satisfaction".

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