short notes is a journal on software, systems, engineering practices among other things.
Copyright © 2002-2006 short notes. All rights reserved.    contact address: email to the editor   ISSN 1543-6489

short notes
Wednesday, 26. May 2004

For your eyes only

A few months ago Islamic fanatics bombed Madrid commuter trains and murdered two hundred people. Soon an American lawyer (a convert to Muslim) was arrested because his fingerprint appeared on a piece of evidence of the bombing. Alas he was not the right man, New York Times reports:

The Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation ought to hang their heads in shame over the mistaken arrest and jailing of a Muslim lawyer in Oregon who was supposed to be a material witness in the Madrid train bombing case. The arrest turned out to be based on a faulty fingerprint identification by F.B.I. "experts." That finding was ultimately retracted when more careful Spanish investigators concluded that the fingerprint had actually been left by a different man. Federal authorities apologized for the error and the unjustified jail time, but they still have a lot of explaining to do. The case smacks of a rush to judgment based on flimsy evidence. Clearly fingerprint analysis is not the gold standard it is cracked up to be. The method itself is not foolproof, and the analysts who provide the final judgment sometimes make the wrong call. [...]
This story and the oft-sited story about an amateur fooling fingerprint readers with fake fingers made of gelatin should serve as a warning against "the Lures of Biometrics" -- "However much fervent proponents and keen vendors of biometric solutions market their wares, the guiding factor should be proven reliability and appropriateness of these solutions to specific uses, not marketing hype, which seems at times to dominate this arena." Indeed.


Published since 2002-04-23
Updated: 2010-10-16
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