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What Are Fingerprint Biometrics?

A fingerprint scanner is a biometric authentication device.
In the event of a crime, law enforcement officials will attempt to collect a latent fingerprint to identify the perpetrator.
Fingerprint biometrics can link someone to a crime scene.
Article Details
  • Written By: M.R. Anglin
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 02 November 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Fingerprint biometrics is the means by which a person can identify another using their fingerprints. Each person is born having a unique fingerprint. Therefore, a person’s fingerprint can be used to identify him or her, and fingerprint biometrics allow people to do so. The process of identifying a person by their fingerprints is used in a variety of applications, most notably criminology. It is even being used to identify users seeking to gain access to personal computers.

Many people are familiar with fingerprint biometrics because of the police department. The police can use biometrics to identify suspects and link them to crime scenes. Similarly, it is also used in the United States to register legal residents. Since a fingerprint is a part of a person and is not likely to change except by injury or accident, it can also be added onto computers as a secure way to log in. In addition, it can also be added to USB flash drives and cell phones.

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If a person wishes to use fingerprint biometrics, first they must enroll their prints into a database. This may be done by use of a fingerprint scanner. Many times, when the print is captured and stored, it is not an image of the print that is stored. Rather, many devices scan the print and record the minutia points--the places on fingerprints where ridges end or split. The information is then stored on the database and used to match the print with a person the next time the print is scanned.

To identify the person, the fingerprint must be scanned again. This can be done via fingerprint scanner or scanning an image of the print. In the case of a crime, the police can take a latent print--the fingerprint left behind by the suspect--and take a digital image of that. Once the image is captured it can be compared against the database. The device will match the information from the print and find a match, if any, in the database.

While fingerprint biometrics has several wonderful uses, there are also some drawbacks. One of the most devastating drawbacks is what happens if the scanners are fooled. A smart thief could devise a way to make a copy of a person’s fingerprint and use that to gain access to a personal computer, for example. If that thief gained access to personal information, he could use it to steal the person’s identity. In addition, unlike a personal identification number (PIN), a victim of this type of identity theft is not able to change a fingerprint if fraud is suspected.

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