Fingerprinting at Heathrow could breach privacy laws

The UK’s data-protection watchdog is investigating whether BAA’s plans to fingerprint large numbers of passengers at Heathrow’s new Terminal 5 breach privacy laws.

The office of the information commissioner said the inquiry would not affect the opening of the terminal, which has been designed so domestic passengers mix with international arrivals taking connecting flights.

Airport operator BAA intends to take digital fingerprints of both sets of passengers and match them at the boarding gates.

The investigation follows a complaint from a privacy campaign group. A spokesman for the information commissioner said: “We have serious concerns about what the BAA is doing. Fingerprinting is far more intrusive than taking a picture.”

BAA said it was confident the measures would not breach the Data Protection Act and promised the data would be destroyed within 24 hours.

British Airways will move all domestic and most European services to Terminal 5 overnight on Wednesday. The terminal is due to open on Thursday.

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