Random Conversation About Fingerprinting

Friend: I know you are at work.. but you are good at tracking things down too. My mom now has to be fingerprinted for work as a crossing guard…. they claim its a Michigan state law that all people working with children must be… but i don’t think so. I don’t have to be, and my daycare was just relicensed in December. So.. i wondered if you had any ideas how i could go about looking this up and if she really does have to be fingerprinted.
Friend: Never mind.. i found it already. The Student Safety Initiative.
Me: Most police departments will do it for you
Me: Nowadays, they can use electronic fingerprinting too
Friend: The school is doing it for free for her
Friend: but, she is just really against it… let me see if i can quote her:

Friend’s Mom: Are you being asked to be fingerprinted for your work? The school says it’s the law this year and all employees that work with children – church, schools, day cares, have to be fingerprinted….
Friend’s Mom: I don’t like it – that’s for criminals and I don’t like the FBI keeping my fingerprints on file

Me: But it’s For the ChildrenTM
Me: Ze innocent have nazing to fear
Friend: bleh
Me: Tell your mom now she knows how gun owners feel ;)

Friend’s Mom: Yeah – I still feel like a criminal and I don’t carry a gun
Friend’s Mom: My only weapon is an orange vest

Me: It’s hard for me to have sympathy :)
Me: I get routinely treated like a criminal every time I want to buy a gun or renew my license
Friend: She’s all mad that i said something comparing her to a gun owner
Friend: BTW, she’s very anti gun.
Me: Welcome to the police state. Vere are your papers!?!?!?
Friend: heh ;~)

Savor that one folks. What goes around, comes around. You can’t expect to empower the state to take away liberty from people you find undesirable, and then expect the state to respect your liberty when you end up in the cross hairs. When you find yourself in that situation, the people who’s liberties have already been trampled on may not be sympathetic enough to help you.

14 Responses to “Random Conversation About Fingerprinting”

  1. Nomen Nescio says:

    been fingerprinted thrice so far in the course of getting a green card and, now, citizenship. i don’t like being treated like a criminal either, but it’s not fingerprinting that sets me off — that just seems like bookkeeping to me, honestly. the hullabaloo i have to go through to get on a damn plane, now, that’s being treated like a criminal.

  2. ParatrooperJJ says:

    Just to note, the FBI does not keep the prints on file, they run a check and then discard them.

  3. Joe Huffman says:

    Just keep believing that. You’ll be happier that way. Don’t read my latest post.

  4. straightarrow says:

    I can’t figure you out. Sometimes you are just perfectly aligned with principle then you scoot off to the side somewhere like you were skating on marbles. This time you have again been perfect. I really don’t know where you stand. One day on principle the next on pragmatism at the expense of principle. I don’t get it.

    I used to be fingerprinted for national security reasons, I assure you all Joe is right. Those fingerprint records are never discarded, not for any reason.

  5. Jym says:

    Straightarrow: I think it basically comes down to black and white vs. shades of gray.

    Sebastian evaluates each circumstance and decides whether it’s worth sticking to principle or if the benefits of being pragmatic outweigh it.

    For you, it’s an all or nothing choice, where either you stick to principles or you don’t.

  6. straightarrow says:

    For you, it’s an all or nothing choice, where either you stick to principles or you don’t.

    Comment by Jym on January 10th, 2008

    I have to admit that you are correct in your assessment of me. I will surrender no part of me to another. That does not mean I seek confrontation, I am actually quite peacable and thought to be a funny nice guy by most people. Principle isn’t something you put down because it is heavy. One’s adherence to principle is false if it isn’t observed when it is costly.

    When I have done wrong, and I have, I don’t pragmatically lie about it to avoid the consequences. Very few times in my life have I purposely done wrong, but that is not an excuse if one has wronged another. I will and have held myself accountable in order to maintain principle.

    Though it is a tough assignment, I still must look myelf in the mirror when I shave. I do not want to face myself with shame. My looks are punishment enough without carrying the guilt of self betrayal.

    It seems foolish to today’s generation to hold those views, but what they do not realize is we leave this world with nothing but our personal history.

    I have been no angel, but I have never been afraid to live what I claim to believe. That cannot be said of the pragmatist. Everything and everyone is subject to betrayal on the altar of practicality.

    That cannot be argued legitimately.

  7. Sebastian says:

    That’s because I’m a pragmatist. I have principles, but sometimes I have to bend for the sake of expediency. Like the Parking Lot Bill… GCO thinks NRA’s priorities are out of whack, I actually agree with that. I’ve told them I don’t agree with the whole parking lot issue. They don’t see things my way. I don’t agree with them, but I still respect their position on the matter, and understand how they got into this predicament.

  8. JKB says:

    The fingerprints are in the FBI’s civil files. Some twenty years ago I had the task of facilitating the return of the body of a Marine Engineer who had died at sea from Hawaii to his family in South Carolina. The Honolulu coroner would not release the body without positive identification. Since the engineer had a USCG Merchant Marine license, all I had to do was get the coroner’s office and the Honolulu police talking and they ran the prints against the FBI’s civil files. Why the coroner and the police didn’t have contacts already I can’t fathom. However, once I got a law enforcement agency to submit the request for the coroner, identifying the engineer was not an issue.

    Note the fingerprints had nothing to do with national security, the prints were required to work as a US merchant seaman.

  9. Jim W says:

    Throw them away? Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

    Lets play a logic game. Let’s say that they are only comparing them to crime scene fingerprints or the fingerprints of convicted criminals. To perform that comparison, they have to scan the fingerprint so that it can be compared with a computer algorithm. Once it has been scanned, why would they throw it away? Retaining it is essentially free once you have a system and a properly formatted piece of data.

    I would bet good money that all received prints go right into the computer database to be stored in perpetuity. There are probably more dead people in the FBI fingerprint system than there are in Arlington. Hard drive space is so cheap as to be free. A high resolution fingerprint photograph is probably a few hundred k of black and white for all 10 prints. You could store the prints of everyone who has ever lived in the united states (a few billion in aggregate) with a few thousand dollars worth of commercially available hard drives. Be extravagant and assume they have stored additional data (algorithm results and hashes, indexes relating to identity, etc) and it might cost a few hundred thousand dollars in storage costs. These are agencies with multi-billion dollar budgets. I would be surprised if these systems were not already implemented and mature by the early 90s.

  10. Joe Huffman says:

    They digitized them in the early 90’s. I remember seeing the request for bids come across my desk at my little startup software company.

    I took a class on biometrics a few years ago and IIRC the compression algorithm for the images is non standard and lossless (I.E. not .jpg, .gif, etc.). The algorithms for storage/retrieval use partitioning to reduce the search space (I.E. swirl types are stored separate from loops).

    If, for some reason, it was really important I know where to look up more information on the science/technology of fingerprint storage, retrieval, and identification…

  11. ParatrooperJJ says:

    Joe- I am aware of the proposed program to retain prints if requested by employers.
    Prints submitted for criminal record checks are not currently retained. They are run thru the database and then discarded. Prints taken for federal jobs, federal licenses, criminal records, etc… are retained. At the state level of course, retention of prints is on a state by state basis.

  12. straightarrow says:

    Hey if it makes you happy, go ahead and take their word for it. I mean no government agency has ever lied.

  13. Joe Huffman says:

    The NICS records were supposed to be destroyed if the buyer passed the check too. They were not. And then they were used by the FBI in criminal investigations.

    The problem is the law may say the government is required to do something but there is almost never a punishment if they fail to do it. At best you can bring a civil lawsuit against them but you have to show you were injured in some way, you have standing, etc.

    I could tell you stories about the Freedom of Information Act requests I have made that were/are just being ignored. Or the documents WHICH I CREATED which were totally unrestricted suddenly becoming “For Official Use Only” when I requested them. Other requested materials which I also created and told them where to find, and verified with ex-coworkers that they still existed, netted a response of “We did a thorough search and were unable to locate any materials matching your description.”

    The worst that can happen to them is that they ultimately have to comply. So why bother to comply until they are forced to by a court order?


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