How reliable is fingerprint analysis?
- Published on: Tuesday, August 7, 2018
- Fingerprinting is used by law enforcement all over the world, but it may not be as reliable as you think.
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Fingerprinting has been a vital tool in forensic science since 1911 when the first conviction was handed out based on fingerprint evidence. It’s been used in countless investigations to help convict or rule out suspects, but is it as reliable as we think?
According to one study, researchers found that fingerprint analysts had a false positive rate (i.e. when they incorrectly conclude two prints are a match) of 0.1%. That may seem low, but that percentage reveals that innocent people are still being implicated in crimes.
Brandon Mayfield is one of the most famous examples of a false positive identification. The FBI arrested him for the 2004 Madrid train bombing based on a wrongful fingerprint match.
Most people agree that it’s a useful tool, but we might want to exercise a bit more skepticism when it comes to trusting fingerprints.
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