What is an Automated Fingerprint Identification System?

Harriette Halepis

An automated fingerprint identification system is a type of modern technology that is mostly used by law enforcement agencies. The basic concept behind this type of computer system is to match one set of fingerprints with existing fingerprints that are contained within a large database. By using this technology, law enforcement officials can identify criminals, verify identification, and preserve public safety.

In most cases, an automated fingerprint system is used to capture criminals, such as kidnappers.
In most cases, an automated fingerprint system is used to capture criminals, such as kidnappers.

While similar, an automated fingerprint verification system is not the same as an automated fingerprint identification system. Automated fingerprint verification systems are used by companies and individuals in order to protect secure data. By matching an authorized user's fingerprints with those contained within a database, classified information can be obtained. Recently, this technology has been utilized by car manufacturers and home security companies.

Fingerprints on file can be scanned into a computer sytem.
Fingerprints on file can be scanned into a computer sytem.

In most cases, an automated fingerprint identification system is used to capture criminals, but this is not always true. Various countries around the globe have instilled government automated fingerprint identification systems in order to identify benefit recipients, check passports, and perform background checks. Almost every country has some type of fingerprint system in place. The United States has an automated fingerprint identification system that is maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Canada, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Israel, Pakistan, Argentina, Turkey, Morocco, Italy, Chile, Venezuela, Australia, and Denmark all have similar systems.

To enter a collection of fingerprints into an automated fingerprint identification system, a technician can either scan fingerprints into the system, or create an impression of fingerprints that are captured on film. Computer algorithms help to match fingerprints with those prints that are already contained within a database.

Some countries use custom designed fingerprint software that cannot be used by any other country. Therefore, these systems vary greatly from country to country. When it comes to matching prints across country borders, the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), has an automated fingerprint identification system that can be used to identify criminals from all around the world.

Fingerprint technology has come a long way from its humble beginnings. Many years ago, matching a person's fingerprints to prints that were already on file was a tedious endeavor. Today, thanks to modern technology, matching fingerprints is easier than ever. However, this system is hardly perfect, since it is entirely possible that a criminal's fingerprints may not be on file at all. In this instance, police investigative work is necessary in order to identify a criminal of any kind.

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Discussion Comments


I took a forensics class and we all had to collect fingerprints from each other for a class data base. Then we would set up a fake crime scene and have to use the electronic fingerprinting to figure out who did it.

It felt like a really complicated version of the board game "Clue." A guy in our class built the automated fingerprinting system from the ground up. He probably got a job in data base programming or something.

Fingerprinting has always been fascinating to be since everyone's fingerprints are so unique. it's hard imagine when you sit and think about just how many sets of unique fingerprints there are in the world. Woah.

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