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Are dead people being treated by default as criminals by the Police using the Project Lantern mobile fingerprint scanners ?

We have waited in vain for other blogs or the media to pick up on the implications of Home Secretary John Reid's Parliamentary Written Answer to his Liberal Democrat front bench opponent Nicholas Clegg, regarding the current status of the Project Lantern mobile fingerprints (allegedly only for identification purposes) trials being conducted by the Police and some other Government agencies.

See our unanswered questions Project Lantern mobile fingerprint scanners used by the Police - what happens to the digital fingerprint minutiae afterwards ?

Written answers Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Home Department
Fingerprints: Pilot Schemes

Nicholas Clegg (Sheffield, Hallam, Liberal Democrat)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the results of the pilot project codenamed Lantern on the use of mobile fingerprint scanners.

John Reid John Reid (Home Secretary)

The Lantern pilot is still in its early stages and the initial results and feedback received to date indicate that Lantern is delivering the expected business benefits and that officers are finding it easy to operate and a useful tool that they would not want to be withdrawn. Currently results are being returned to the device in less than two minutes with an accuracy rate of approximately 97 per cent. and a hit rate of 40 per cent. (i.e. 40 per cent. of people checked are recorded on IDENT1). This high hit rate reflects the environment in which the devices are being used—proactive, intelligence led policing.


Results indicate that Lantern is showing time savings beyond expectations and hence allowing officers to spend more time on the streets and providing a visible deterrent. Establishing a person's identity at the roadside avoids the need to arrest a person and take them to a custody suite to do this—a process which typically takes about three hours. Early results show that in encounters where officers have reported a time saving using Lantern, the average time saved has been about 90 minutes.

All well and good. However, where was the public debate and consultation on the implications of this bit of "function creep" in Project Lantern ?

There have also been a number of cases where Lantern has provided early identification of deceased persons carrying no ID and hence saved a considerable amount of police and coroners time and also enabled next of kin to be informed sooner. Cases have included fatal road traffic collisions, sudden deaths and suicide victims on railway lines.

There is nothing in the legislation (Serious Organised Crime and Police ACt 2005 Section 117 Fingerprints which amends Section 61 (fingerprinting) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act ) which allows a Police Constable to do these roadside fingerprint checks using the Project Lantern equipment, which mentions fingerprinting innocent dead people, for any purpose at all, or even allowing a Coroner to do so.

What saving in time is there going to be at all, since, presumably, the dead body is going to be dealt with in the usual way, and there will still have to be a journey back to a morgue and a formal identification process, which may involve full sets of fingerprints etc. regardless .

What is the rush to provide such identifications ? Surely grieving family members are not going to be dealt with sympathetically or be expected to provide formal identifications of the deceased at the roadside ?

Does nobody else find that the default assumption, even before the National Identity Register has been set up , that someone who is innocent but has died suddenly, may have a criminal record on the Police National Computer, or be otherwise known to a Police intelligence database, which is what the Project Lantern scheme accesses, is creepy and repressive ?

We have previously asked the question, which the Home Office, in their arrogance, has still not bothered to answer, about the procedures for the collection of biometric data from innocent dead people for the wretched National Identity Register scheme, with all that implies for a grieving family and for various religious faiths.

Will permission for a burial or cremation be refused or delayed, over say, a weekend or a public holiday, because some bureaucrat or government subcontractor jobsworth has not got around to taking fingerprints or iris scans from the deceased, to change the status of the person on the National Identity Register (not to remove them from it, however) ? Or will the estate of a dead person be taxed or fined if the jobsworths have not done so before burial or cremation ?


This is definitely a Bad Turn.
Is this another of Reid's attempts to justify the NIR? So they know who you are when you're dead? Charming! And as you say, what's the rush?

TBH I didn't spot this one because I was excessively narrow in my auto-rummage script - but this is a ps-poor excuse and future extractions should now pick up this sort of thing...

@ Doctor_Wibble - another question springs to mind: if they are using Project Lantern mobile fingerprint scanners directly on the fingers of dead people, as they must, for that is how the technology works, what are the bio-safety protocols for sterilising the equipment afterwards ?

Or are living members of the public and the police constables themselves, meant to physically touch possibly contaminated Project Lantern equipment ?

It's good to see this kind of scope creep being documented on this site, because I anticipate that there will be far more creeping going on in the near future. This is really at the heart or what the national ID scheme is all about. They're not interested in you carrying a card, but what they are interested in is getting your biometric information. Such information will be used for purposes far wider than merely identifying individuals in traditional scenarios, such as airport security, and will be used by the state to very closely control its citizenry.

This demonstrates perfectly that "function creep" is not a paranoid fear - the police without a second thought use this kind of information for new applications, without even waiting for the law to be changed. No doubt this will be another application that is retroactively legalised in the next criminal justice act.

Pants. I did think of the 'living digit' problem but in my annoyance at missing out an obvious word (c.f. the BlackAdder 'dictionary' episode) I forgot to mention it...

If this test isn't there, then a set of stick-on fingerprints would surely be a doddle - especially since they only have to be a 'non-match' and therefore only have to pass a basic 'visual' - unless the officers using the machine are to closely inspect people's hands before using the machine...?

If someone is up to some *serious* no-good they would make sure they were prepared for this.

As for the bio-safety, considerations of contamination and contagion seem to be 'somewhat lacking' in rather a lot of official biometrics-related stuff. Alternative employment for the telephone sanitisers perhaps...?

I agree with Bob Mottram. ID cards seem to be an irrelevance with the Project Lantern system. Unless of course ID cards are going to be used by organisations who don’t have access to Project Lantern.

It would seem that either, the Government wish to use a third party database for corporate access. Or they are using the ID card/database as a smokescreen to force everyone into the lantern system. That is, it would be more palatable to people registering on a supposed neutral database rather than telling them they will be going on a National Police Criminal Database.

Though perhaps they are doing this for both reasons.

hmm... in 3% of cases, the system returns the identity of someone else!

Does this mean that for every 100 dead people checked, 3 will be incorrectly IDed and the wrong family members informed?

Does anyone else see full-blown industrialised British holocaust on the horizon?

Imagine a scenario(s).

Busy night in the City. "Bomb" explodes on tube rumours. Areas taped off and people only allowed to exit after a Lantern " this is quite simple sir, just press your finger ..." Do you have adriving licence sir ?

Airport check in...we have reason to believe that fugitives from justice .... " quite simple sir, just press your finger .." my colleague here will take your passport details...." better just take the litle girl's madam .. be on the safe side Ho.Ho.Ho."

@ ziz - thankfully the bomb scare cordon scenario is impractical with the current Project Lantern technology.

It is far too slow for that sort of mass surveillance - 2 or 3 minutes per person, which would lead to massive queues i.e. vulnerable targets for secondary bombs in any bomb scare evacuation (a long established tactic both in Northern Ireland and in Iraq)

At an airport check in, there would would be much faster wired or wireless data communications available than at an arbitrary roadside checkpoint, which is where Project Lantern mobile fingerprint scanners are being tested.

However that is essentially what the current US-VISIT system does, although they have failed to implement the fingerprint scanning on leaving the USA, and they are now finding that finger and thumb are not giving as many matches even with criminal records and terrorist watchlists as they were hoping for,so they are trying to expand the scheme to all 10 digits (if available).

Not even the current US administration is stupid enough to try to do these fingerprint checks on their own citizens, but that does seem to be the long term NuLabour control freak plan.


YES. No doubt about it. Even I wouldn't think that this particular government would do it, but after they have put all the paraphernalia in place, it wouldn't take much ... ...

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