Privacy SOS

Ferguson, MO police fingerprint children—but they are hardly alone

On September 6, the St. Louis police department tweeted images of its "Community Outreach Unit" fingerprinting children in Ferguson. While tone deaf in the extreme, given the police shooting of Mike Brown and ensuing protests, the fingerprinting drive in Ferguson is hardly unique.

All over the country, law enforcement conducts operations to collect biometric information from children. In Massachusetts we've seen this happen at schools and public events like the Fourth of July celebrations at the Charles river. State police agencies, sheriffs departments, and local cops are all in on the act. The FBI, which is building a billion dollar plus Biometrics Center of Excellence, is usually the beneficiary of the data.

Police tell parents that they should hand over their children's fingerprints, images, and in the case of Ferguson, voice data, so that if something terrible happens to their kid, they can be identified. If you think about this proposition for more than a few seconds, it's apparent that the only useful purpose this data collection might serve for a parent is to ID a dead child. Bleak, and disturbing.

Don't give your kid's fingerprints, face print, iris scan, or voice data to the police. Their privacy matters, and once that information is inside the FBI's giant Next Generation Identification database, it will never come out.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.