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Fingerprinting Finland
by Thanos Kalamidas
2009-07-03 08:49:19
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In a Europe where personal liberties have been very important, and on a continent that knows well what it means to be innocent but having a police file from the bitter years before WWII, Finland has decided to add fingerprints to their passports. This raises a couple of questions to me. First of all, does the Finnish state suspect Finns who travel abroad of committing crimes?

I know I sound paranoid, but I think the decision is equally paranoid, and at the very least suspicious. But let’s start with some facts. Everybody living permanently in Finland has an identity card; I use the word ‘permanently’, because everybody without Finnish nationality or citizenship, i.e. foreigners, has to have an identity card. I for instance, am not a Finnish citizen. The identity card has your full name and national security number, plus a clear photo and a micro chip that stores a vast amount of your personal information. Supposedly, this information is readable only by the Finnish security forces or by any other country that has an exchange information agreement with the Finnish state. I suppose it means that if you have a police record anywhere, you can find in this micro chip.

Now looking at fingerprinting, if you’ve had yours taken, it means that you have a police record, and most likely that you have enjoyed state hospitality in one of the penitentiary institutions. There is no other reason the police or the state would want to have a record of your fingerprints. This means that you are either a suspect, or will be a suspect of a crime. This fact in itself violates all sense of personal liberty, because everybody is innocent until proven guilty. So why do passports need fingerprints?

Here is another scary fact: The only reason for you to get a passport is because you are planning to go abroad. Of course there is always a chance that you might loose the passport, and it ends up in the hands of the wrong people. But, let me see, I have a passport from another EU state, which requires no fingerprints, and I know for a fact that the majority – if not all EU passports, and most in the entire world – don’t have fingerprints. So why should a Finnish one have it? What remains, as one famous detective said, is that even the most outrageous fact is true. The Finnish state suspects that Finns traveling abroad are going to commit a crime, and they want to be sure that they can identify them!

In Greece, people have had identity cards since the early 30s, I think, and there have been a number of reasons for this. But the reasons weren’t always very clear, and yes, they did have fingerprints for suspicious reasons, as modern Greek history has taught us! Apparently the dictatorship was the biggest defender of this measure, and it used the fingerprints to send hundreds of innocents to prison and exile – just because these people disagreed with the dictators. I suppose this is what makes me a bit sensitive to the issue. But the fact is, that the last ten years the Government, the European Parliament and the European personal liberties acts all considered fingerprints to be a measure of prejudice, and dangerous. Therefore they decided not to include this information on the new identity cards, just like with religion or nationality.

So why is Finland turning back the clock? What is the reasoning and the paranoia behind this act, and why passports? Or, are the passports just the first step, with the identity cards to follow? Please don’t tell me that certain countries have asked for it, because that will make my mind go to only one country; the US, because traveling inside Europe – the main destination for Finns – you don’t even need a passport.

So what is left? A paranoid state, or a police state where Big Brother is a reality? USA officials have admitted that all the restrictions on entering the United States have damage tourism, mainly because people oppose the prying into and controlling of their personal lives. This aside, often all information somehow tends to end up in the databases of marketing companies.

So let’s see, the Finnish security officials say that fingerprinting the passports will help to prevent passport forgery. But as I said before, this sounds ridiculous. The criminals are not this stupid. Another excuse is that this way the Finnish passports will get closer to EU standards. They must be joking. In the UK for example, people don’t have identity cards, and last government’s efforts to instate these, ended up in the rubbish after all the negative reactions.

As I said before, in Greece all fingerprints are gone from the IDs, in an effect to protect personal rights. Thank God the Parliament's Constitutional Law Committee said that fingerprinting nationals is not necessary, and it can be dangerous. What remains to be seen is what the EU and the European Parliament Personal Liberties Committee will decide to do to protect the innocent Finnish citizens. State security is a national issue, and every nation is obliged to protect its citizens. But this doesn’t mean that the state can violate the citizens’ freedom and dignity. The Finnish legislators have to remember this. After all, the people of Europe have fought for their rights for over a century, and Finland has been part of this fight during very difficult times. Now is not the time to turn back.

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Emanuel Paparella2009-07-03 12:46:12
A quarter of a century has passed since “1984” and unfortunately George Orwell’s prophecy, which appeared so far off and far fetched when he wrote the novel, has more than come to pass. We are all being watched and monitored by “Big Brother” while we delude ourselves of exercising our freedom in democratic countries guaranteeing our civil rights and privacy. Any problem existing will be fixed eventually by our technology. Indeed we are all clever by half now and as Heidegger wrote only a god can save us now! And who pray watches Big Brother? That remains the question which our cleverness by half seems unable to answer. I am afraid that as long as Big Brother guarantees our human rights, they will forever elude us. The founding fathers of the US had a better idea: they did not have the State guaranteed those rights; they considered them inalienable, meaning that they were integral part of being human and no State, no matter how politically powerful, had the right to guarantee and grant them to its citizens, they were born with them; they were a sort of gift of the Creator. Today, actually since Machiavelli, we have substitute the idol of power to the Creator for indeed man being religious by nature, he must worship something. The idol has not served us very well.

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