Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Last week, the Bank of America publicly admitted to harboring thousands of fingerprints they collect from their customers in a database. They wouldn't reveal the location of the database, or other information about the fingerprints, such as how long they are stored and who has access to them.
Regardless of those details, the idea that any entity has a database filled with fingerprints for an indeterminate amount of time makes privacy advocates and some lawmakers worried.
"The practice goes too far," said state Rep. Neal Kurk, of Weare, cosponsor of a bill to outlaw the practice in New Hampshire. "Even if the FBI is not involved . . . the government could get that information. Not to mention, anyone could hack into that system and access that information."
The "Thumbprint Signature Program" has been in use by Bank of America and several other banks around the country for over 10 years now. It was originally developed to fight check fraud.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts said, "While Bank of America says this measure is an effort to reduce and discourage check fraud, we believe the bank has taken a step that could endanger individual liberties," the statement reads."Fingerprinting of customers is part of a recent trend in the taking and storing of biometric information. While technology is evolving at the speed of light, privacy laws that protect us from abuse have not kept up."