WUOMFM

Are fingerprints reliable? MSU researcher says 'Yes'

Jul 7, 2015

A new Michigan State University study confirms something very important about human finger prints.

Fingerprints taken by William James Herschel 1859-1860
Credit William James Herschel (1833-1917) / Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Law enforcement agencies have been using fingerprint evidence for a century.  But is it reliable over time?   Yes, says MSU researcher Anil Jain.

Jain is the University Distinguished Professor of computer science and engineering,

He delved into the Michigan State Police database, reviewing fingerprint records for nearly 16,000 subjects. He compared the fingerprints of suspects arrested at least five times during their lives.

The accuracy of fingerprints is challenged from time to time. 

Jain says basic fingerprint patterns remain “persistent” for life, something that’s important more than just the police. 

“Most of the major mobile phone companies now have a fingerprint reader embedded in the device,” says Jain.

Jain says finger prints aren’t 100% reliable, because some people intentional or unintentionally mar their fingerprints.

The study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.