Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for May 2nd, 2007

Where Does All the Biometric Data Go?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 2nd May, 2007

fingerprint.jpgAs anyone who has transited through the United States en route for another country will know, the procedure is quite unlike anywhere else in the world. You have to go through immigration controls, as if you were entering the United States on a visit, and have your photo and fingerprints taken. And even if your luggage is checked through to your final destination, you have to collect it from baggage reclaim at the US point of entry, proceed through customs and then check it in again to your connecting international flight.

On my way out to Mexico last Friday, I had a two-hour stopover in Houston, Texas — which proved to be just about long enough to get all this done and grab a quick milkshake. But yesterday, the stopover on the return journey was just one hour and a few minutes and I immediately realised that the only way I was going to get to the London plane in time would be if I went into ‘Opening Day of the New Primark Megastore Mode’, and push myself past protesting passengers to the front of the queues at both immigraton and baggage security clearance. Such uncharacteristically ungallant behaviour meant that I did indeed literally just catch my connecting flight (carrying my belt, and with shoelaces untied, as I raced from the scanner to the departure gate). But my luggage wasn’t so lucky and got left behind. What struck me as the craziest thing of all about this unnecessary and intrusive procedure is that although I’d had my pic and fingerprints taken on Friday, when I was transiting back through Houston yesterday, using the same passport, they were taken again. What on earth is the point of that, and where does all this data go? Several of my fellow travellers flying from Cancun to London missed the connection completely, and I suspect that they, like me, will avoid transiting through the US ever again, if possible — to the detriment of Continental and other US airlines.

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