Texas State Representative Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington) filed a bill on Friday that would stop the practice by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) of fingerprinting all ten digits of all drivers. The DPS policy changed from only collecting thumbprints to collecting all ten digits in 2014. Privacy advocates immediately began to clamor about this privacy invasion. Tinderholt, who campaigned on transparency and government accountability, introduced this bill, HB 871, as his first piece of legislation as a freshman state rep.
“HB 871 will simply return the policy to only taking the thumbprints of the applicants,” Tinderholt said in a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas. “March 2016 will serve as the cutoff date for the Department of Public Safety to erase all past records of any fingerprints taken previously.”
Many people believed the DPS did not have the authority to require the ten-digit fingerprinting. DPS Director Colonel Steve McCraw disputed that in a column he wrote last year in the Dallas Morning News. “The 10-print fingerprint process, which is authorized in existing Texas law, was implemented earlier this year after funding for this expansion was approved by the Legislature,” McCraw explained. “The department is confident in the legal authority to collect all 10 fingerprints.”
“The Image Verification System mandated by Texas statute (Transportation Code 521.059) in 2005 authorizes DPS to use license and ID photos and ‘thumbprints or fingerprints’ to help law enforcement protect the public by detecting fraud, identifying criminals and potentially solving crimes,” McCraw wrote.
McCraw confirmed that the fingerprints could be used by law enforcement officials investigating crimes. Representative Tinderholt responded, “Unless you have committed a crime or suspected of committing a crime there is no reason for a government agency to have a database of your fingerprints.”
“I told the residents of District 94 that I would fight for transparency and accountable government,” he stated, “that is what this bill does.”
Currently the statue states the department “shall establish an image verification system based on the following identifiers collected by the department: (1) an applicant’s facial image; and (2) an applicant’s thumbprints or fingerprints.” The text of Tinderholt’s bill changes this statute to read: “The department shall establish an image verification system based on the following identifiers collected by the department under Section 521.142(b): (1) an applicant’s facial image; and (2) an applicant’s thumbprints or, if thumbprints cannot be taken, the index fingerprints of the applicant.”
McCraw claims the procedure reduces fraud, guards against identity theft and deters terrorists. “DPS works to protect residents from ever-changing threats, including the growing incidence of identity fraud. This new fingerprint technology provides crucial protections to the state and our residents,” McCraw wrote.
TCU political science professor Donald W. Jackson, an expert on privacy and constitutional rights, told the Dallas Morning News’ Watchdog, Dave Lieber, the Constitution forbids unreasonable searches, but the definition of what that is has expanded, especially in the past decade. “We have a 21st-century world in which everything moves at the speed of light,” Jackson said. “We need to reconfigure lots and lots of rules to deal with the realities around us. Anything we do is subject to being surveilled or overheard. And that’s a real problem.”
“Unless there is probable cause or reasonable suspicion,” he concluded, “we should be left alone.”
“This is fighting not only for 94 but for Texans as a whole! This is what REAL LIBERTY and Constitutional Conservatism looks like,” said Michael Smith on his Facebook page. “All House Republicans should be co-authoring this bill!”
Bob Price is a senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas and a member of the original Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX.