FBI Goes Digital with Fingerprinting

Updated: 06/28/2013 10:31 PM KSTP.com By: Cassie Hart

Out with the old, in with the new ... at least new to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

"Technology has definitely allowed us to advance our process," said FBI Chief Division Council Kyle Loven. "There's no doubt about it."

Loven says the FBI is getting rid of paper fingerprint cards and going electronic.

"In the old days you would stick the card in an envelope and send it to the requesting agency," he explained. "Now it's just a click, and there it is."

Only 20 companies throughout the country have contracts to store and transmit fingerprints related to civil investigations for the FBI. Bloomington-based VetConnex is now one of them.

"We're up, we're running, the connection is ready to go, and we're very happy about it," said VetConnex Co-Owner Tim Murphy. The technology VetConnex uses fits into a small bag. First, someone getting their prints taken would have their driver's license scanned to confirm their identity. Then all they have to do is put their fingers on a small pad and the prints show up on a computer screen.

Keep in mind, these are fingerprints the FBI already gets, and they pertain to civil, not criminal investigations. For example, professions that often require fingerprints include nursing, teaching, child care workers, casino or liquor license owners, or people working for financial institutions. Also, contract holders like Murphy can't keep the fingerprints forever -- they get deleted.

"The push for this is just to expedite and make these prints more available and make them more easily transmittable in the future," Loven said.

The FBI says this is only the beginning of its transition to electronic fingerprints. They expect more companies to join the market, and they think more government agencies will roll out similar programs.