Being Stupid in the Name of Privacy

Japan used to require all foreigners entering their country to be fingerprinted. They abandoned this policy due to privacy concerns and, as far as I'm concerned, this is a Good Thing. More and more countries, rather than honestly asking themselves, "what can we do to to make the world a better place?", have simply given up, assumed things are bad, and just assume that violating our privacy is a necessary evil in their fight against reason terrorism.

Giving into terror hysteria, Japan again requires foreigners to be fingerprinted.

Of course, if you're disturbed by the idea of the mounting assaults on our privacy, this probably bothers you. Offhand, short of hiring a plastic surgeon, I am only familiar with one way of changing your fingerprints. You get someone to press their fingerprints into modeling clay. Then you spray the prints with jeweler's oil, apply Nu Skin (they have a clear artificial skin product), and when it sets, carefully peel off the prints. Then you superglue them to your fingertips and carefully pierce the prints with a needle to let your natural oils cover the prints. More Nu Skin will need to be applied to blend the fingerprint edges into your own skin.

Of course, the other person is probably not going to want to be implicated in whatever you do, so it helps if they're unconscious when you borrow their prints. This is probably not a viable route.

Enter "mock". This is the online handle of a rather curious gentleman I've met at a couple of conferences. He's a security researcher and is passionate about privacy. He decided that the trick would be to remove his fingerprints. He researched various methods and actually tried them. Then he posted a blog entry about how to remove your fingerprints. He even has a PDF of slides of his attempts. And yes, he even pressed his fingers into a frying pan with hot, smoking oil (it didn't work but it hurt like hell).

He claims he successfully made it through Japanese customs and he actually had to wait in a line of people who didn't have fingerprints. Curiously, he mentioned they were mostly old Chinese women. I'm wondering how that came about.

The downside of this, as mock points out, is that you probably want to have a plausible reason why you don't have fingerprints. That last bit has me stumped.
  • Current Mood: thoughtful thoughtful
Well, I never wanted to go to Japan in the first place. Do you suppose US Customs wold let me in without fingerprints? No, neither do I.

Ian was quizzed very closely last time he travelled to the US, as they were very curious as to how he had 'friends' in the US. Seems International Relations are not to be encouraged after all.
I have to say I'm worried that the next time I visit the US I will be refused entry, given that they will finally fingerprint me and then might match that up to my British criminal record. On the other hand I've always felt a substantial amount of fear each time I've handed in my tourist visa with a little tick on it saying no-I've-never-broken-into-any-US-airbases-mister-honest ... So far, my best innocent look has worked.
Well, this is interesting because when I came back from Japan in the Fall, I was indignant because when we landing in Chicago, there was a huge sign at immigration that said everyone had to be fingerprinted. I did not know I was exempt as a Canadian, but most of the people on the plane had t be fingerprinted and have a picture taken.

I was so angry about this - I have no record, am not planning on doing anything to anybody in the US - but I felt it was such a violation, that I actually couldn't think straight and my face was so flushed when I got to the INS agent that he actually began questioning me to see if I was alright.

After he processed me, I made a comment since I was at the back of the line and there was no one behind me. Now I never do this, because I do not question people at the border while being black. Just as bad as driving in a nice car while black. The guy mentioned he did not like the policy much either, but that, that I was next, and soon US citizens will be fingerprinted soon too. He was resigned and saw it as a done deal, even if he wasn't for it. I don't know how many more Americans are going to need a fire lit under them to do something.

Shortly after this, I read the first announcement that Japan was planning on fingerprinting foreign nationals. What do you expect? Their nationals suffer that humiliation and US citizens get to pass through their borders freely? I think it is the wrong course to take, but I can see exactly how this came about.
Playing a stringed instrument can leave you without fingerprints on your left hand. The excuse would be that you switch hands to avoid wrist problems.
Semi-plausible reasons
There are two very rare congenital conditions - Naegeli-Franceschetti-Jadassohn (NFJ) syndrome and Dermatopathia Pigmentosa Reticularis (DPR) - where afflicted persons, amongst other symptoms, have no lines on their fingers or toes. Both are caused by mutations in the keratin-14 gene.

I think it would be easier to explain why you have no permanent fingerprints than to explain my predicament of regularly and temporarily having no fingerprint on one digit. My right thumb was amputated and surgically reattached when I was five and the blood circulation is poor as a result. Several layers of skin tend to peel or flake off, revealing flesh and leaving me with a completely smooth print for about three weeks until it heals again. A couple of years ago I tested this with the IBM Thinkpad's fingerprint scanner and it stopped authorising me as soon as the skin started peeling. It'd be interesting to try this again with a wider selection of biometric technology, if only to document and publish the fact that such systems are not infallible.

A 'Good Thing'? What's with The Capitalisation, Man?

Anyway, now I comment on the content, not the presentation. I read the Canadian's post and it made me think.

Firstly, Americans are basically trained to submit to this sort of authority. They've forgotten that fingerprinting, drug-testing, blood tests, etc. are violations of their Fourth Amendment (RIP) rights. This took only a few generations to breed out of us.

The second thing I have to say has to deal with the utter incompetence of our administration. In the case of 9/11, all the evidence was there to figure it out. The problem was volume (I think... well, that and the aforementioned incompetence). Having the fingerprint records of everyone in the country gives you a nearly internet-sized sample to wade through, gives you more false positives, and is more prone to error. Those who do nothing wrong in the country shouldn't have their fingerprints taken: that just muddies up your data.

The broad-search technique we've been using in this country doesn't work. But it is invasive and Orwellian.

Can I have Obama now? I'm hoping he'll get us through this.

Are you still a voter, Curtis? Mo just got naturalised, but he missed the voting deadline by one day. Please help us out of this mess!

Edited at 2008-05-05 04:02 pm (UTC)
The downside of this, as mock points out, is that you probably want to have a plausible reason why you don't have fingerprints. That last bit has me stumped.

I would no more feel obligated to offer a reason for that, than I would any other body-mods (tats, etc.). (Of which I have none at the moment, but still...)
They could also be dead when you take the prints. I would assume they would have to be freshly dead, or that you have the means to rehydrate flesh in such a way that it would give you a good enough print given the dehydration and deterioration of the body.

Two other advantages to this method come to mind, but there might be more:
1) You would not need the whole person for the printing. Just apologize to the dead body to relieve your guilt in advance of their post-death reputation ruination, take the digits and go.
2) You could use the prints of several individuals at once. And, once in the destination country, you could continue to change your prints. If you are going to EFF with it, do it right. Think of it, not the mystery of one dead person, but many in cahoots. Is it an army of zombies?

But because of all the CCTV, you could be found to be the common thread no matter what you do. Don't worry. I have disguises I could lend you.