A family member is a candidate for a contract position. The position requires a background check, including fingerprints (this information was just shared). The concern is that the prints will be digitized. With biometric authentication becoming more commonplace, that digital biometric data is more important (you can change a password that's been compromised, but you cannot change your fingerprints or retina patterns).

Can anyone provide insight into how this is done currently? (Many years ago I was fingerprinted for a couple of jobs, but it was ink on a card that went into a file cabinet and was never actually sent anywhere). The major concern is the security of the biometric data.

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    It will depend very much on who is taking the prints and what for.
    – user8036
    Dec 4, 2013 at 19:01
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    I work a K-12 support organization, and we do fingerprinting. When we do it, the prints are scanned, saved locally for 3 years, and also transmitted to the State Police, and State's Department of Education. AFAIK, nobody has ever asked to retrieve our local copies. I don't know how long the places we transmit the data to retain this data, or how it is secured at those orgs. I do think you are being a bit overly paranoid though. Yes theoretically someone might be able get a copy of bio-metric data, but very few systems rely on it as the only factor for authentication.
    – Zoredache
    Dec 4, 2013 at 21:12
  • They actually did scan the fingerprints digitally. Their privacy policy does not explain what they actually do with the digital print (whether it is stored or for how long). When asked directly, they would not say, only that it was very secure. I'm not comfortable with it, but it is becoming increasingly common for companies to require a BG check before hiring, so candidates are over a barrel. Dec 5, 2013 at 21:34

3 Answers 3


If this is done by a private company, we cannot answer this. It is completely possible that they are digitized and kept around in the databases.

The thing to do is to request their privacy policy, and see what it says. Chances are good that they will keep the data around for a certain period of time before wiping it. But if you are concerned about data breaches, then there is obviously no guarantees.

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    I once requested a privacy policy for the background check when applying for an agency job for a multinational company's retail customer service. Eventually I got in touch with the head of the background check company because no one knew what the privacy policy was. I was delayed in taking the position for 10 days because they had to write one for me.
    – user9696
    Dec 5, 2013 at 4:40

In most democracies there are checks on who can ask for information like fingerprints, what they can use them for, and what they do with them In my country fingerprinting is only allowed for criminal record checks and it has to be done by police, who will also do the check. In other cases when a company takes your fingerprints for background checks you have to consent, and they have to use them only for that purpose and destroy them afterwards.

The exception to this rule is probably the US, where employers can pretty much do anything they want.


Are fingerprints taken for a background check digitized?

Digitizing is one option when having fingerprints taken.

Can anyone provide insight into how this is done currently?

You place your hands, one at a time, onto a machine that looks like a scanner. The machine then reads your fingerprints and digitizes them for the background check.

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