Children's prints to be held on database
CHILDREN as young as 11 are to have their fingerprints taken and stored on a secret government database, it was claimed last night.
The Home Office is understood to be planning to take as many as half-a-million prints from children aged 11 to 16 from 2010 onwards.
The proposals are part of wider moves to introduce ID cards under which everyone over 16 will have to have their fingerprints, eye and facial details taken down when they apply for a new passport.
Children were to be exempt from the scheme, but the new proposals show that they too are now being considered for close monitoring.
Ministers say ID cards are necessary to prevent identity theft and fraud. But critics last night said the moves to include children in the plans marked the growth of the "surveillance society".
Tory shadow home secretary David Davis said: "This borders on the sinister and shows the government is trying to end the presumption of innocence."
The moves come as the government admitted that the new hi-tech passports intended to tighten up fraud can still be electronically "cloned" by identity thieves while still in transit.
"It is widely accepted in the industry that most computer chips can be cloned, just like a passport could be photocopied," said a spokesman for the Identity and Passport Service.
"The most important question is whether the ability to clone a chip similar to that incorporated in the passport actually poses a threat to the security of the passport. It is not possible to successfully forge a passport by doing this."
But last night former home secretary Charles Clarke urged the government to go further with its plans for electronic passports and identity cards, adding vital information including DNA and medical records to the data in chips.
Clarke said: "To protect the UK's health records database and many other government databases we should ensure all access is controlled by biometric ID cards."
Opposition politicians and privacy campaigners warned the proposals would cause more problems for an identity scheme already running into severe difficulties - and feed an identity fraud industry worth 1.7bn a year.
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