News spread quickly last week through the gaming community that the Philadelphia locations of video game store GameStop had begun requiring fingerprint scans from anyone who looking to sell or trade in used games, starting in early July. But on Monday morning, GameStop, which is headquartered in Texas, told Philadelphia magazine that they stopped all fingerprinting at their 27 Philadelphia stores as of Saturday.
“We thought it was something we should do,” says GameStop spokesperson Joey Mooring, adding that the request for fingerprints originally came from the Philadelphia Police Department’s Major Crimes Unit. “We always like to cooperate with local authorities. But we are no longer doing the fingerprints. We have gone back to the normal policy, which requires a name and photo ID.”
Originally, there was some question about whether GameStop was required to do the fingerprinting to comply with city pawnbroker laws. But upon further examination of those laws, they learned that wasn't the case. "We realized that we really didn't fall under those laws," says Mooring.
And City Solicitor Shelley Smith agrees with that assessment.
"What GameStop does doesn’t meet any of the elements of the definition in the code, so the pawnbreaker ordinance doesn’t apply to GameStop," she told KYW last week when news first broke of the new fingerprinting policy.
Mooring says that this is the first time that GameStop has received a fingerprinting request from a municipality's police force. The company has approximately 4,200 locations across the United States.
Philadelphia Police spokesperson Christine O'Brien says that while pawnbrokers are required to take fingerprints, which are uploaded to an online investigation database called Leads Online, police make requests of other businesses that might tend to provide an outlet for criminals trying to unload stolen goods.
"GameStop proactively decided to get involved," says O'Brien. "It would benefit the city, the police, and their customers. It's a win-win. Now, I don't know why they would decide to stop. If your home gets burglarized, wouldn't you want police to have this tool?"
Mooring declined to comment on whether the company received any major backlash over the policy. I asked him what GameStop was going to do about all of the fingerprints it had received during the weeks that the fingerprinting policy was in place. "We are not providing them to the local police," he says.
But those fingerprints are already part of the police department's investigation system, since they are uploaded automatically to Leads Online via the Internet. After all, this is 2014, not 1984.
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