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Are fingerprints actually different from one person to the next?

Posted by Bulldog Law | May 09, 2024 | 0 Comments

When the police dust for fingerprints, they are doing so because these fingerprints can then be connected to the individual accused of the crime. If the police have arrested a suspect and taken their fingerprints, for instance, and those fingerprints match the ones found at the scene, this is very strong evidence to demonstrate that the suspect was at the scene of the crime. It's based on the idea that every fingerprint is unique and so those prints couldn't belong to anyone else.

But is that actually true? We don't know, according to a forensic science professor from Hull University. He noted that we haven't found two people with matching fingerprints yet, but that is a far cry from saying that everyone has a unique fingerprint. Not every person on the planet has ever been fingerprinted at the same time and the results have not been compared, so there could theoretically be overlap between individuals.

Artificial intelligence enters the scene

Intriguingly, researchers have recently begun using AI to analyze fingerprints. They gave it a sample size of 60,000 different fingerprints to see if it could figure out which ones matched.

Artificial intelligence could do so, but the researchers themselves said they weren't sure how. The AI system did not appear to be looking at the same details that traditional forensic scientists look for.

Additionally, the AI was not accurate in 100% of cases. The accuracy was between 75% and 90%. So even in situations where prints may be similar, the artificial intelligence could make mistakes and get matches wrong. And if a computer program does so, how much more likely is it that the same thing could happen with a human scientist?

This isn't to say that fingerprint evidence won't be used in future criminal cases, but it is important to consider just how accurate it is and what defense options you have when facing charges.

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