Are your fingerprints in the FBI database?

If you’ve ever applied to be a police officer or a child care worker, they are. Since 1953, all federal workers, down to part-time hash slingers in cafeterias, have been fingerprinted.

Some states require fingerprinting for unlikely professions, such as architect. California admits to giving the FBI 1.2 million sets of civilians’ fingerprints annually.

All this seemed OK until recently, because the FBI kept its famous criminal fingerprints file in a searchable database and hardly bothered with others that came in.

That has changed, reports Jennifer Lynch of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Now all criminal and civil prints are together in a database, meaning a broad swath of Americans have their prints searched each day along with Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson and John Dillinger.

(I think I’m kidding. They do remove the prints of the deceased, right?)

The FBI has publicly disclosed this in dry press releases ignored by the media.

It is Ms. Lynch’s job to notice: “The government should not collect information on Americans for a non-criminal purpose and then use that same information for criminal [enforcement] purposes – in effect submitting the data of Americans with no ties to the criminal justice system to thousands of criminal searches every day. This violates our democratic ideals and our societal belief that we should not treat people as criminals until they are proven guilty.”

Mistakes are possible, like the one in 2004 when a computer linked a print found at a terrorist bombing in Spain to a lawyer in Portland, Ore., who was jailed for two weeks while bumbling FBI agents figured things out.

Our elected officials care not about any of this. Will voters remind them to care?

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