FBI takes biometrics database proposal to U.K.

Published 22 January 2008

FBI, U.K. National Policing Improvement Agency in talks over the U.K. joining the FBI’s ambitious Server in the Sky database project; new database, in which the FBI plans to invest some $1 billion, will track down the world’s most wanted criminals and terrorists

As we reported last week, police in the U.K. is in talks with the FBI about establishing an international biometric database for tracking down the world’s most wanted criminals and terrorists. The so-called Server in the Sky database would share criminals’ biometric data, such as fingerprints and iris scans, internationally. The Washington Post reported last month that the FBI is spending $1 billion to develop the world’s largest centralized biometrics database, a system the agency calls Next Generation Identification. The FBI suggested the database at a meeting of five countries — Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States — in the International Information Consortium technology group.

The U.K. National Policing Improvement Agency said it was aware of the proposal and that any such system could be linked into existing law enforcement databases such as Ident1, the U.K. repository of more than seven million pieces of biometric data from crime scenes, although there are no formal plans for such an initiative at the moment. “The FBI are proposing this and the proposals are being discussed by the International Information Consortium group, but these are initial discussions; there are no agreements,” a spokesman for the NPIA said. The Home Office, the U.K. government department for law enforcement and public safety, also confirmed it was aware of the FBI database project as one of a “wide range of initiatives we are constantly looking at to improve our investigative capabilities.”

U.S. defense company Northrop Grumman, which built the Ident1 system, also confirmed it had spoken to the FBI about the server-in-the-sky database. The announcement of the database proposals follows the news earlier this week that the United Kingdom has completed a system to check the fingerprints of every visa applicant.