The UK Home Office has struck up a data sharing agreement with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, granting border controls access to police-held biometric data records in the UK.
Fingerprint and facial images archived in the UK police database are intended to facilitate the identification of individuals and enhance biometric systems at U.S. immigration controls.
Although the Home Office declined to comment on the closed deal, a spokesman appeared to confirm the news saying, “The UK has a long-standing and close partnership with the USA which includes sharing data for specific purposes. We are in regular discussion with them on new proposals or initiatives to improve public safety and enable legitimate travel.”
The UK’s robust police database is built upon a regime whereby biometric data that is collected on arrest in a national security threat incident can be retained for a 3-year period, with the option to extend the retention period for a further 2 years if it is deemed necessary, irrespective of whether a criminal charge is handed down or further action is taken.
The body met with representatives of the US Department of Homeland Security this week to discuss a proposed outline for UK police data to be integrated with biometric records held by U.S. ports, to increase intelligence of known offenders in the UK who may pose a threat to U.S. and international security.
The two bodies are members of the Enhanced Border Security Partnership (EBSP) which is designed to strengthen relations between multi-nations and increase biometric data sharing, primarily between the European Union and U.S.
Israel was the latest country to sign up to the partnership in March, which Washington aims to make compulsory for 40 more countries under the Visa Waiver Programme.
Under the Visa Waiver Programme, foreign citizens are entitled to enter the Unites States visa-free for up to 90 days but under the condition that these countries must allow U.S. access to their fingerprint databases.
In light of major international terror incidents like 9/11, the U.S. has embarked on several data-sharing agreements with the European Union to increase transparency over known terror offenders.
Patrick Breyer, LIBE committee member and Pirate Party MEP, said the meeting revealed that the UK – and three EU member states – had already signed up to reintroduce US visa requirements which grant access to police biometric databases in the U.S.
Breyer noted: “I expect the EU Commission and also the German government to reject the demand of the US authorities and not allow themselves to be blackmailed”.