Fingerprint scans convert people's fingerprints into digital codes or numerical data that can be recorded in a database. Like facial recognition software, fingerprint scanning matches an individual's code against an existing database of codes in order to confirm that individual's identity. Proponents of fingerprint scanning point to the conversion of fingerprints into digital data as a privacy protection measure. Since replicas of fingerprints themselves are never saved, but always converted, fingerprint data cannot be stolen or mishandled.
Officials introduced fingerprint scanning as a counterterrorism technology almost immediately following the 9/11 attacks. The primary interest at that point was in using fingerprint scanning to screen airport employees.
There have since been experiments using fingerprint scanning to idenitfy airline passengers. In 2005, Lufthansa Airlines teamed with Siemens Business Service to test a program in which converted fingerprint code is directly printed onto a passenger's boarding pass upon check-in. Passengers fingerprints are scannaed again at boarding time and compared with the existing code. The data is not saved after the passenger checks in.
Fingerprint scanning is already in use as an identification system that replaces cards or keys: to log onto computers, to check out library books, and to monitor entry to buildings. The U.S. military has also used fingerprint scanning in Iraq to hire employees and monitor detainees.