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September 4, 2015

Fingerprint analysis

A fingerprint with highlighted minutiae and points used to match fingerprint patterns.

Fingerprints have been used by law enforcement and forensics experts to successfully identify people for more than 100 years. Though fingerprints are assumed to be infallible personal identifiers, there has been little scientific research to prove this claim to be true. As such, there have been repeated challenges to the admissibility of fingerprint evidence in courts of law.

Anil Jain, University Distinguished Professor of computer science and engineering at Michigan State University (MSU), wanted to answer the question that has plagued law enforcement and forensic science for decades: Is fingerprint pattern persistent over time?

Jain and his former Ph.D. student Soweon Yoon (now with the National Institutes of Health) examined fingerprint records of 15,597 individuals who had been apprehended numerous times by MSU police over a period varying from five to 12 years. They found that fingerprint recognition accuracy doesnt change, even as the time between two fingerprints being compared increases. The study is the largest and most thorough on the persistence of the Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems' (AFIS) accuracy. Maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigations, AFIS is a national automated fingerprint identification and criminal history system used, for example, by law enforcement agencies, businesses for employment background checks and for firearms purchases.

Experts agree the study addresses one of the most fundamental issues in fingerprint identification and is of great importance to law enforcement and forensic science. The study was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Center for Identification Technology Research, an NSF Industry/University Cooperative Research Center.

To learn more, see the NSF News From the Field story Stuck on you: Research shows fingerprint accuracy stays the same over time. (Date of Image: 2001)


Credit: Source: Michigan State University (MSU); minutiae points, core and delta were extracted from image by Dr. Kai Cao of MSU using Verifinger SDK and then overlaid on the original image

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