Today the Racial Justice Network and Yorkshire Resists have released a brand-new report on the increased use of the Biometric Services Gateway (mobile fingerprinting) by police forces across the UK. We analyse the latest data obtained through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests from April 2020 to December 2021. Download the PDF report at: FOI Report.

Mobile fingerprinting devices allows police officers to scan, on the spot, a person’s fingerprint against the IDENT1 criminal record database and the Home Office IABS (Immigration and Asylum Biometric Service) database without taking the individual into custody. A match may result in an arrest, contact with the Home Office or even detention.

The report discusses how the devices are being used, who they are being used on, and the outcomes and reasons provided for a ‘Stop and Scan’. It also discusses the new Operator Initiated Facial Recognition app and its use on minors.

Highlighted are issues of racial and gender bias, the criminalisation of migration, and the impacts of technologies that turn police into a street-level border force. It therefore expands upon the themes of our previous reports on the piloting and national rollout of the technology but contains a more detailed breakdown of data from a greater number of forces.

Key findings from the data provided include, but are not limited to:

  • Black people are 4 times more likely to be stopped and scanned than a white person. Asian people are 2 times more likely to be stopped and scanned than a white person.
  • Men are 12 times more likely to be stopped and scanned than those identified as ‘Women’ o ‘Unknown’ by officers.
  • 6 forces are scanning the immigration and criminal databases simultaneously.
  • The facial recognition mobile app was used 42 times in the ongoing pilot stage (by South Wales Police), on 35 people. Of these individuals, six were minors between the ages of 10-17.

The data that was provided shows a clear bias in who is targeted by stop and scan practices. It is therefore alarming that a number of other forces either did not collect, or refused to provide, these statistics (see report for more details). The lack of justification for the omission of key data points is unacceptable in the context of increased public awareness of police misuse of powers and public interest in the monitoring of issues around ethics, discrimination and racial profiling. Yet again, we find ourselves asking for police forces to listen to these concerns – for our voices not only to be heard as part of a “tick box” exercise, but recognised and engaged with.

We therefore lay out our ‘Recommendations’ – with regards to the issues raised by our analyses of the FOI data – in the report’s conclusion. In light of the disproportionate use of the technologies on racially minoritized communities, we argue that police use of mobile fingerprint scanners and facial recognition software should immediately cease. We also propose the implementation of a Firewall to ensure police officers have no remote, real-time link to the immigration database. Mistakes have consistently been found in immigration information, which puts those stopped and scanned in very vulnerable situations.

Such tactics do not help keep our communities safe. Rather, they cause irreparable harm to our loved ones. They run a border right through the heart of our communities.

‘Hands Off Our Prints!’ Available to watch over on our YouTube Channel.

Highlighting the biases of Facial Technology and Biometric Services.

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