Fingerprints were used as a person’s mark as early as 2000 BC during the building of the pyramids in Egypt. In 500 BC, Babylonian business transactions are recorded in clay tablets that include fingerprints. Early Chinese merchants used fingerprints to settle business transactions. Chinese parents also used fingerprints and footprints to differentiate children from one another. Humans have used fingerprints for personal identification for many centuries and the matching accuracy using fingerprints has been shown to be very high.

A fingerprint is the pattern of ridges and valleys on the surface of a fingertip, the formation of which is determined during the first seven months of fetal development. Fingerprints of identical twins are different and so are the prints on each finger of the same person. Today, a fingerprint scanner costs next to nothing when ordered in large quantities and the marginal cost of embedding a fingerprint-based biometric in a system (laptop computer) has become affordable in a large number of applications. The accuracy of the currently available fingerprint recognition systems is adequate for verification systems and small- to medium-scale identification systems involving a few hundred users. Multiple fingerprints of a person provide additional information to allow for large-scale recognition involving millions of identities.

One problem with the current fingerprint recognition systems is that they require a large amount of computational resources, especially when operating in the identification mode. Also, fingerprints of a small fraction of the population may be unsuitable for automatic identification because of genetic factors, aging, environmental, or occupational reasons (manual workers may have a large number of cuts and bruises on their fingerprints that keep changing).


Interpol provides authorized users in member countries with view, submit and cross-check records in the fingerprints database via a user-friendly automatic fingerprint identification system, AFIS

FBI Next Generation Identification

The FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division operates and maintains IAFIS, which became the world’s largest person-centric biometric database when it was implemented in July 1999. Morphotrak was chosen as biometric provider for FBI Next Generation Identification (NGI) Program. AFIT, part of NGI , deployed on February 25, 2011, enhances fingerprint and latent processing services, increases the accuracy and daily fingerprint processing capacity, and improves system availability. This deployment implemented a new fingerprint matching algorithm which has improved matching accuracy from approximately 92% to over 99.6%. And of course the FBI doesn't want privacy laws to apply to its biometric database (from the and-doesn't-want-to-let-citizens-know-how-THEIR-privacy-is-affected dept)

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