What happens to thousands of fingerprints DPS collected?


AUSTIN (KXAN) — A little more than a week ago, the Texas Department of Public Safety ended a policy requiring drivers to provide all 10 fingerprints when getting or renewing their driver’s license. The agency said the intent of the policy had been to prevent criminal activity like identity theft and terrorism. Now that the policy has ended, questions remain. One of the biggest questions many are asking: What will happen to the thousands of fingerprints already collected in the last year?

In June, Hunter Turnbow and his father reluctantly handed over their fingerprints.

“I say reluctantly only because: Why is that necessary? And why is that needed?” Turnbow said. “It’s one step closer to taking genetic information. Fingerprints, it might sound minor, but what’s the next step, a swab of my inner mouth?”

But Turnbow needed a driver’s license, so he did it anyway. Now that the policy has ended, Turnbow wants some answers.

“What about all those thousands, I’m assuming, who’s information they have taken in, including mine and my fathers? What about that data?”

State Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, and other lawmakers have also been wondering the same thing. Tinderholt believes the 10 prints were collected inappropriately. He filed a bill to delete the fingerprint data and make sure this doesn’t happen again in the future.

“People are very sensitive nowadays about their privacy, and their fingerprints are part of their privacy,” Tinderholt said. “I know that there are people out there that this is not important them, but I would implore them to consider the long-term effects of giving up your privacy this time and then it continues and continues to grow, and then you have absolutely no privacy at some point.”

DPS says the original intent was for the fingerprints to be entered into the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, also known as AFIS. There, they could be ran against other prints to stop crimes, like identity theft. A DPS representative was not able to provide data on if, or how many, crimes were solved during the policy.

DPS says prints collected under the 10-fingerprint policy are not currently in AFIS; however, the data can still be accessed. DPS officials will wait for direction from lawmakers on what to do with the prints.

Tinderholt made it clear that he and other lawmakers support law enforcement and the work DPS does. However, this was one policy that needed to be changed.

“I think this is something you’re going to see a lot more of, legislators making sure people’s liberties are protected and their privacy is protected,” Tinderholt said.

Now DPS will only be collecting your index fingerprints. A DPS representative says that they will go into a unique database, but at this time it’s still being determined how the database will be used.

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