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Councilor proposes fingerprinting plan

City Councilor Rob Consalvo introduced an ordinance yesterday that would require people who work with the public — such as cabbies, pawn dealers and bike messengers — to be fingerprinted before they can receive or renew a city license.

City Councilor Rob Consalvo introduced an ordinance yesterday that would require people who work with the public — such as cabbies, pawn dealers and bike messengers — to be fingerprinted before they can receive or renew a city license.

The measure would enter prints into a national database and would require stronger criminal history checks.

“When we do background checks we only check a person's name, which is not the best way to check a criminal's background,” Consalvo said. “They could have an alias, change their name or there could be a spelling error.”

“Also, the police are only allowed by law to check criminal databases in Massachusetts,” he added.

Applicants would also pay $50 to cover the cost of entering the prints into the national database.

“That’s an insinuation you’re already guilty before a conviction,” said one cabbie who wished to remain anonymous.

It’s unclear how long the prints would remain on file.

“That's a key question,” Nancy Murray of the ACLU of Massachusetts said. “There’s a mania at this moment to get as much personal data as possible and put it in a big database and we at the ACLU are worried about this being done without proper oversight.”

Recent state legislation gave cities and towns the authority to pass this kind of ordinance.

“I don’t expect any privacy issues,” Consalvo said. “We’re not forcing you to come in and ask for one of these special licenses.”

Five councilors signed on as co-sponsors yesterday and a hearing should be held in the next two weeks.

 
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