• United States



The Fact of Fingerprints

Sep 01, 20041 min
BiometricsData and Information Security

Good old-fashioned fingerprints remain the most effective biometric available

In an era when technologists have tried to identify us with a scan of our eyeballs or our faces, the sound of our voices or even by the way we walk, good old-fashioned fingerprints remain the most effective biometric available.

A recent study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology confirms that fact. Fingerprint identification systems have approached 99 percent accuracy and, perhaps more importantly, a slim 0.01 false positive rateor only about one in 10,000 scans resulting in a misidentification.

The NIST study tested 34 fingerprint ID systems from 18 companies. About 25,000 people supplied about 50,000 sets of fingerprintsin all about 400,000 distinct digital images of digits. The best systems reached 98.6 percent accuracy for a single-print match. Predictably, the more prints that matched, the higher the accuracy rate. Two-finger matches were accurate 99.6 percent of the time. Four or more fingers, 99.9 percent.

NIST conducted the study under directives from the USA Patriot Act and the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act. The hope is that the fingerprint ID systems used by the FBI can be shared with the Department of Homeland Security.

While the hype will focus on ever more imaginative biometrics, fingerprinting still works the best.