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NCJ Number: 215028 Find in a Library
Title: Cautionary Note About Fingerprint Analysis and Reliance on Digital Technology
Journal: Judicature  Volume:89  Issue:6  Dated:May-June 2006  Pages:334-338
Author(s): Michael Cherry; Edward Imwinkelried
Date Published: May 2006
Page Count: 5
Type: Issue Overview
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article discusses the benefits and limitations of computerization and digital technology in fingerprint analysis.
Abstract: Errors may occur when examiners rely on digital images instead of traditional images, “rolled” images produced when a person is arrested and “latent” images recovered at crime scenes. In order to fully understand the differences between human-based analysis and computer assisted processes we must first ask “Who conducts the analysis?” and “What is being analyzed?”. The enormous demand for fingerprint analysis in the United States, estimated at more than 40 million comparisons annually, has created the need for computerized systems that can match latent images to rolled images in less time than that required by a human being. While success rates of computerized matching systems is impressive, the shear number of fingerprint comparisons conducted annually in the United States could lead to a large number of errors. There are inherent limitations in the current technologies used to capture and compare digital fingerprint images. These particular limitations were not present in the traditional technologies and may lead to inaccuracies such as failures to identify matching fingerprint patterns or false-positive matches. In addition to the technological limitations, errors can be made throughout the identification process. Errors that could jeopardize results can occur during any of the major steps of the process: 1) scanning the image into the computer, 2) enhancing the image, 3) linking the image to a specific person (indexing), 4) storing the image, and 5) retrieving or printing the image. There are advantages to computerization and even traditional, human-based techniques have been challenged in the past. However, greater skepticism is warranted when examiners rely solely on computerized analysis and digitized images. Government agencies and courts are taking a more critical view of this technology and are improving processes and pressing for more reliable digital evidence.
Main Term(s): Automated fingerprint processing; Fingerprint image quality
Index Term(s): Databases; Photographic identification; Science and Technology
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