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Are fingerprints reliable? MSU researcher says 'Yes'

William James Herschel (1833-1917)
Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

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

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.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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