By Chris Williams
Employers to take fingerprints for CRB checks
Private companies will take fingerprints from job applicants as part of a trial to improve the accuracy of Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) background checks.
The trial, disclosed to The Register in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, will see employment agencies gather biometric data from some applicants to establish their identity.
The role has until now been performed by the police. When a CRB check is matched to a record on the police national computer, fingerprints are sometimes used to verify whether the person applying for a job is the same person who committed the crime.
“The CRB therefore made amendments in Police Act Regulations in March 2009 to insert a further option for the taking of applicants’ fingerprints by allowing this to be done by a Registered Body (RB) following standard police processes and guidelines.”
In CRB jargon, a “Registered Body” is any organisation that is allowed to receive criminal records disclosures. Many large employers and agencies are themselves Registered Bodies. Smaller firms often use a third party CRB check firm to avoid the administration costs of becoming a Registered Body.
“In terms of process both for the pilot and any subsequent solution once the fingerprints have been taken by the Registered Body they will be forwarded to either a police force or one central police force who will then undertake a ‘speculative search’ on police systems as per the provisions established in the Police Act 1997 (Criminal Records) Regulations 2002,” the CRB said.
It said employers will not be forced to take fingerprints and job applicants will not be forced to give them to the employer. The option of visiting a police station will remain open, it added.
The disclosure of the “small” fingerprint pilot follows news in August that the CRB is also continuing work on incorporating ID Cards into the disclosure process, again hoping to improve accuracy. Its identity error rate last year was three times that of the previous year.
By David Moss
FBI techs shy away from facial recognition
A senior FBI technologist declared last month that after decades of evaluation, the agency sees no point in facial recognition.
Speaking at last month’s Biometrics 2009 conference in London, James A Loudermilk II, a senior level technologist at the FBI, outlined the agency’s future biometrics’ strategy.
He said that 18,000 law enforcement agencies contribute fingerprints and DNA samples to the FBI’s databases and, at their peak, they submit 200,000+ identity verification queries a day. It’s a big operation, and it’s only going to grow, he said.
Under the Next Generation Identification initiative, an irisprint database is likely to be added to the existing fingerprint and DNA databases.
Fingerprints are likely to be amplified with friction prints of other ridges, probably palmprints and maybe footprints. Voiceprints are also being evaluated. Anything that can feasibly increase public safety.
Loudermilk said his aim was to get the current turnaround time for laboratory staff from DNA sample to profile down from 8 to 10 hours to 1. He said the technology was there already, it was a question of feeding it down the levels of law enforcement to every precinct booking station. Once the agency gets turnaround time to an hour, then perhaps the idea of sampling an entire planeload of passengers starts to look feasible.
Facial recognition would be the killer application of biometrics, Loudermilk told the hundreds of conference delegates, and the FBI would dearly love to be able to use facial recognition in its fight against crime.
But it can’t. The algorithms just don’t exist to deliver the highly reliable verification required.
Despite the FBI’s rubbishing of the technology, delegates from other policing agencies and vendors queued up to declare their intention to introduce facial recognition or claim the technology worked.
These included Alex Lahood of the UK Border Agency. He reiterated former Home Sec John Reid’s pledge to check the identity of everyone entering and leaving the UK by 2013. When asked how, he said, probably face recognition and fingerprints.