The Pinal County Sheriff’s department has begun identifying inmates by iris scans and facial recognition. It has also extended the program to its 700 sex offenders registered in the county.
Pinal joins dozens of sheriff’s offices and correctional facilities across the nation using BI2 Technologies, a Massachusetts-based biometric intelligence company. The company gives local law enforcement iris-scanning capabilities and a database shared by participating agencies.
One disturbing note is how the police obtained the money to set up such a system.
The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office used $30,000 in inmate welfare funds to purchase three scanners for jail use and one to capture sex offender data.
Inmate welfare funds are supposed to be used to for the benefit, education, and welfare of the inmate population. How, exactly, is taking a person’s biometric information, storing it in a database, and tracking the person, possibly for the rest of their lives, helpful to this person?
Peoria, Arizona is pursuing the idea of forcing customers to give up their fingerprints in order to get some medicines labeled as likely to be abused and involved in cases of fraud.
Peoria law-enforcement officials this month proposed an ordinance that would require anyone filling prescriptions for drugs such as OxyContin and Percocet to show ID and be fingerprinted at the pharmacy counter, including anyone picking up a prescription for a family member or friend.
Dan Pochoda, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, called it an “overreaction.”
Indeed it is a huge overreaction and an invasion of privacy. There are many people who take certain drugs on a regular basis and do not want to be in some database simply because they might need this medicine to live.
Pochoda of the ACLU said that to collect fingerprints of everyone filling a prescription is “like saying we’ll take a blood sample of every person, and later if they are a suspect we’ll use it.”
Details of the plan will be presented to Arizona State Board of Pharmacy in January. Currently, the state tracks certain prescriptions in an effort to track “doctor shoppers” and abuse drugs such as those containing pseudoephedrine.
Peoria City Attorney Steve Kemp is pushing for the measure to be made into law. While prescription fraud cases have increased in the city of Peoria, it is still relatively small compared to legitimate prescriptions. It is also not understood how the data will be collected or stored. What drugs would be on the list requiring fingerprints has also not been released.
Medical privacy would also be of concern. How would HIPAA laws be protected? Will the fingerprint database be connected to other pharmacies. Will it simply be added to the current criminal database? If there are two databases, who would be authorized to have access to it? If something like this were made a law, your fingerprints would likely be accessible to police, pharmacies, doctor’s offices, and insurance companies.
This proposed ordinance would be a huge infringement of individual rights. It will not have the desired effect that government officials are hoping for. Those who are going to abuse these drugs will simply drive a few miles down the road and get their prescription filled in another city or simply steal the drugs. It will only affect, and hurt, honest citizens who must take the medications that the city deems to be on their abusive list.
If passed, the city only need to sit back and wait for the first person denied their medication because they refuse to give up their fingerprints to sue after suffering without their medication. Given the fact that most fingerprint scanners are easily fooled, this program is doomed to failure. Hopefully, the city of Peoria realizes this before implementing it.