Mesa's fingerprint scanning tool begs privacy concerns

Mesa's fingerprint scanning tool begs privacy concerns

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By Dominic Di Natale, Fox News

MESA, Ariz. -- Mesa Police say new technology that scans fingerprints is helping officers catch criminals, but critics argue it could go too far.

There's a brewing controversy over our protection and privacy.

Mesa Patrol Officer Todd Reed is working his beat, armed with a new tool in identifying suspects.

"It's just wonderful because we're used to, you know, chasing a rabbit round a bush trying to identify them," says Reed.

Trying to avoid what they call the "name game" in a high crime area of Mesa -- he pulls out his new fingerprint scanner.

With the man's consent, Officer Reed takes scans of his left and right index fingers, then takes it back to run against the name he gave. It a match, and took just seconds to confirm.

Standard methods can take hours -- it's a clear message to those who might give a false id.

"I think the truth will help, especially if you gave them the wrong information and they pulled it anyway," says Randy James Noe.

"You can catch another charge if you are in any way dishonest with your information. It's just, yea, it's not worth it," says Colton Mogler.

The Mesa Police Department has been trying out six of the scanners and won a federal grant to cover 30 more.

They check against the county's fingerprint database but officers want it to go further.

"The gentleman that I just spoke with [...] he did make admissions to me that he has been arrested in Kansas City and Mississippi where he had committed crimes and since the system is not tied into the FBI system nationwide, we don't get any information back on that. So it would be handy if it was tied to the national system," says Reed.

That raises serious questions about privacy and right, and as more law enforcers are equipped with mobile scanners, there are accusations of a creeping police state.

"The police need to have rules and restrictions around how they use this technology. For example, they shouldn't be allowed to ask people, quote unquote, voluntarily turn over their fingerprints because when a police officer asks you to voluntarily do something, it's never truly voluntary," says Jay Stanley, ACLU Senior Policy Analyst.

The scanners don't retain data, which police say preserves privacy.

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