The new fingerprinting requirement for the Uniform CPA Exam sparked debate at the American Institute of CPAs’ Spring Council meeting.

Many institute members have been on the receiving end of an e-mail campaign protesting the new requirement, claiming that it is unnecessary and puts CPAs at risk of identity theft. The institute has also been accused of imposing the requirement without prior notice. The institute disagrees.

“It was widely publicized a year ahead of time,” said AICPA president and CEO Barry Melancon. “One member has started a campaign against it.” He was referring to Jason Giaimo, former vice president of the Alaska Chapter of the Institute of Management Accountants.

Giaimo said that he isn't the only person who objects to the requirement. "This is akin to saying that only one person objected to riding at the back of the bus, just that pesky Rosa Parks," he said.

Melancon noted that the requirement was a necessity, as some people had been discovered taking exams for other people in other organizations' exams. "There have been many examples where people have taken exams, not our exam but taken other exams, where they have used fake identities and things of that nature, particularly as exams continue in multiple parts, and it was all focused on exam security," he said.

Melancon said that state leaders had been alerted about the new requirement from the AICPA and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, and there have been more than 100,000 downloads from the AICPA Web site of information about the new CPA Exam requirements. He also noted that other standardized exams use fingerprinting, including the Medical College Admission Test, Law School Admission Test and Graduate Management Admission Test.

Actual objections from CPA Exam candidates have been rare. “Sixty thousand [exam sections] have been taken and only one person has refused to be fingerprinted,” said Melancon.

Nevertheless, concerns were raised by attendees about the new requirement, including the selection of ChoicePoint to be involved in the fingerprint database. ChoicePoint was the victim of a high-profile data breach in 2005 when identity thieves were able to set up bogus accounts. However, the company has since taken steps to fix its security, is now owned by Reed Elsevier, and has been cited as a “model candidate” by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

There was also disagreement about how long ChoicePoint and Prometric will be holding the data. AICPA officials emphasized that the companies will hold the fingerprinting information for five years only. But one member in attendance said that he had received contradictory information when he phoned the AICPA and Prometric about this point.

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