AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Department of Public Safety will no longer collect all 10 fingerprints from people trying to get a Texas drivers license. The change comes after “concerns and questions raised by a number of legislators regarding the statutory authority of DPS” collecting the fingerprints, the department said in a statement.
DPS quietly started requiring all 10 fingerprints last year. The department said the new policy was put into place to help reduce fraud and identity theft. They also believed it would deter terrorists and other criminals from getting Texas driver’s licenses. They said 10 fingerprints, rather than just one, accurately establishes a person’s identity and helps fill major gaps in public safety.
“People did notice,” said Jim Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project. “And fortunately there was enough of a backlash where they backed down.”
Just as quietly, the policy is going away. Shortly after 5 p.m. on Friday, the agency sent out a news release. No agency representatives answered a phone call for comment.
“Constitution says unless there’s a compelling reason, then you have to respect people’s privacy, and there’s not a compelling reason to do this,” said Harrington.
Harrington was pleased that lawmakers pushed to make the change to happen.
“Lawmakers were concerned enough with what was going on, the overreach of the government, that they stepped in,” Harrington added. “And that’s good, you don’t see that too much.”
One driver outside the license office thought the policy served an important purpose.
“It is for your own protection,” said Rehema Apio. “If you are not a criminal, why do you worry about it?”
“I was quite surprised it happened, happy it happened, but surprised,” said Harrington. “Wondering why it happened late on a Friday afternoon, but it’s done and it’s good, and it’s a step in the right direction.”
The department will still comply with a law passed in 2005 that requires them to get a thumbprint or fingerprint from applicants seeking a license or identification card. DPS says they will collect prints of drivers’ index fingers.
These changes go into effect Feb. 9.