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Heathrow fingerprint plans attacked by watchdog.

Plans to fingerprint passengers using Heathrow's new fifth terminal have been challenged by the UK's data protection watchdog, it emerged yesterday.

The Information Commissioner's Office has warned airport operator BAA that the security measure may breach the Data Protection Act.

BAA confirmed it was in negotiations with the Commissioner over the fingerprinting of passengers, but insisted there was no prospect of the row delaying Thursday's scheduled operational opening of Terminal 5.

The fingerprinting plan will affect all domestic passengers using the pounds 4.3 billion terminal, officially opened by the Queen earlier this month, as well as international passengers transferring onto internal flights. The move will allow domestic and international passengers to mingle in the shops, cafes and bars in Terminal 5's vast departure lounge.

Prints will be taken when passengers first go through security, and then checked at the gate, ensuring that the individual boarding the plane is the same person who first checked in. Without a security measure of this type, it might be possible for a terrorist to arrive at Heathrow on a transit flight, then exchange boarding passes with a colleague in the departure lounge and join a domestic flight to enter the UK without being checked by immigration authorities.

The Information Commissioners' Office has raised concerns over why BAA wants to use fingerprinting at Heathrow, when other airports like Gatwick and Manchester rely on photographs to ensure security at their common departure lounges.

In a statement, BAA said: "When BAA announced plans for common departure lounges, the Border and Immigration Agency was keen on a reliable biometric element to border control. Fingerprinting was selected as the most robust method by BAA, the BIA and other Government departments.

"The data is encrypted immediately and is destroyed within 24 hours of use, in accordance with the Data Protection Act. It does not include personal details nor is it cross-referenced with any other database."

The Home Office said that BAA was required to ensure that arrangements at Terminal 5 did not breach border security, but that there was no requirement for this to involve fingerprinting.

"Our concern is that the UK border is secure and we won't allow BAA to have a common departure lounge unless they ensure the border is secure," said a spokesman.

"They presented us with this plan, which we are happy secures the border. The design of the plan is a matter for BAA."
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Mar 24, 2008
Words:400
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