Sunday, January 18, 2004

Pointing the Fingerprint 

Italian philospher Giorgio Agamben has decided not to take up a position at New York University to protest a US policy that requires overseas visitors and employees to be fingerprinted ('In Protest, Professor Cancels Visit To the U.S.', New York Times, January 17, 2004).

The professor, in a statement made to European newspapers including the French newspaper Le Monde (parts of which were translated for the New York Times article referenced above), said he was opposed to biological methods of tracking people, including retina prints and subcutaneous tattooing for political purposes.

The US-VISIT Program requires that people entering the US and who require a visa will have their fingerprints digitally scanned and photographs taken at airports and seaports. Australians, like Italians, do not need a visa if staying less than 90 days in the US and therefore will not need to be fingerprinted unless they are staying for longer periods.

Australia will also need to introduce biometric security measures before October 26, 2004 for this to continue. New Australian passports are now being trialed by customs that will allow a photograph of the holder's face to be digitally compared with the face of the person presenting the passport, according to The Australian ('Biometric passport demand likely', January 9, 2004). The Australian article also reports that Australia may in return require biometric identification of our foreign visitors if the US system appears to be an effective security measure.

In Brazil, visitors from the US are already being fingerprinted in response to Brazilians being digitally fingerprinted when entering the US ('.S. Begins Foreign Visitor-Tracking Program',, January 5, 2004).

"At first, most of the Americans were angered at having to go through all this, but they were usually more understanding once they learned that Brazilians are subjected to the same treatment in the U.S.," Wagner Castilho, press officer for the federal police in Sao Paulo, said of those arriving at Sao Paulo-Guarulhos International Airport...

Brazil hopes to change the US decision not to allow Brazilians into the US without digitally fingerprinting them first.

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