Advantages and Disadvantages of Fingerprints in Sensors, Authentication Systems, and Forensic Science

Advantages of Fingerprints

Following is the list of 23 advantages of fingerprints in terms of sensors, authentication systems, and forensic science.

Advantages of Fingerprints
  1. Universality. Every human has friction ridges that produce fingerprints on the surface when touched.
  2. Unique identification. Frictional ridges on hands and palms are unique which makes fingerprints a positive source of identifying an individual.
  3. Reliable Means of Identification. When a fingerprint found at a crime scene matches the suspect then he/she can’t deny their presence at the scene.
  4. Easily Left behind at the scene. The fingerprint is one of the most common evidence that an investigator usually looks for at any crime scene.
  5. Easy to Analyze: Investigators can compare side by side or by using various classification measures to come to a conclusion of similarities or dissimilarities. 
  6. No extra equipment is needed for Comparison. To come up with a conclusion, fingerprint experts usually used a pair of magnifying glasses and geometrical instruments. They don’t need any high-end device to compare as other evidence does. You can even compare finger marks at your home.
  7. Easy to Use. When using iris biometrics, the scanner needs to adjust according to the height of the person. However, with fingerprints, one can easily authenticate using fingerprints by simply touching the screen. This serves a better user experience than other systems.
  8. Easy to Compare: For comparing two fingerprints, you don’t need to be a fingerprint expert, you can compare them side-by-side or by using the superimposition method. Even school students can compare fingerprints.
  9. Fast: Fingerprint scanners and recognition systems are one of the fastest detection modules as compared to other physical biometric devices. You don’t need to sign-in again and again by entering your login details.
  10. Automated Identification. Most criminal databases such as those maintained by the FBI have an Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) that is able to classify and find a relevant matching profile with the input data.
  11. Multiple Use of a Fingerprint. Modern technologies start using fingerprints for authentication and identification. It is the most used biometric in the world.
  12. Security Devices: Many biometrics devices are based on fingerprint recognition systems and they are more reliable than passwords and token systems.
  13. Easy to Enroll in System: Once your details are approved by the governing authority, your enrollment phases require simple scanning of your fingerprint using live scan scanners. On average, it requires less than 5 minutes.
  14. You don’t need to remember passwords. Authentication equipped with fingerprint biometrics doesn’t require you to enter a password so you don’t have to stress out about remembering it.
  15. Confidentiality. When you scan your finger, the system matches your friction ridges with database prints, and no third party needs to verify your details personally like in older times when an individual searched your name and details in files.
  16. Reduce Attendance Frauds: Most institutions and government agencies start using fingerprint biometric systems to access the area or as attendance which subsequently reduced attendance fraud.
  17. Harder to Duplicate. Friction ridges are very minute hence duplication needs proper setup and even most of the duplication fails to produce enough details to fool the recently developed biometric system.
  18. Frequency of authentication is quite high. Most fingerprint authentication systems can handle 10 to 20 requests per minute. However, it totally depends on the size of the database and computational power. In general, the throughput is usually higher than other biometric systems.
  19. Cost 10x less than other biometrics. Fingerprint-based technology usually has a scanner, matching, and database module which costs far less than other biometric systems.
  20. Forget the physical Signatures. With a fingerprint-incorporated system, you don’t have to repeatedly register yourself or submit any type of personal information during procedures.
  21. Easily integrate with different systems: Integration is easy and there is dedicated software that even makes the integration process easier. In all systems, the fingerprint recognition system only outputs true or false values on which specific task is performed by the integrated system.
  22. Modern Electronic Devices: Smartphones, tablets, and laptops are now available with fingerprint technology. They use fingerprints to unlock and log-in to financial apps.
  23. Regular Improvement and Research: There are numerous research papers available related to the development of fingerprints and their authentication system such as 3D fingerprinting, live scans, etc.

Read More: 11 Reasons Why Fingerprints Used for Identification in Forensic Science

Disadvantages of Fingerprints

Disadvantages of Fingerprints

Following are the 13 main disadvantages of fingerprints in terms of authentication systems and forensic science.

  1. Not 100% accurate. Because of human error or classification algorithms, there is a small possibility of false positive and negative results.
  2. Affected by scars and injuries. Majorly when the dermal area of fingers gets cut or injured, they usually develop a scar disrupting the friction ridges. So, if the scar is large, it may hinder the ability of authentication from that fingermarks.
  3. Environmental factors cause the wrong results. Sometimes due to sweaty hands, the fingerprint scanner can’t read your ridge details properly and can’t authenticate you. This is also seen with dirt, oil, and water on your fingers.
  4. Fingerprints can be forged. There are various videos and articles that show how to forge a fingerprint. Sometimes these techniques work which is a drawback to the reliability of fingerprints. 
  5. Easily destroyed. Fingerprints on a surface, let’s say on a crime scene, can easily be cleaned with a paper towel or even dry tissue paper on a smooth surface. If they are cleaned, important clues about the preparators may be lost.
  6. Cost: Cost is usually not higher than other biometric systems. But still, they might be expensive for small businesses or organizations. 
  7. Not accessible to All people. People with bone diseases, arthritis patients, disabled, or anyone who no longer has a habit of using fingerprint authentication systems may find it difficult to use them.
  8. Possibility of Human Error. There is a two-step procedure to authenticate fingerprint findings i.e. the result of one investigator is confirmed by another investigator. But I found a case where a human error makes a person out for years because one investigator failed to correctly compare the fingerprints.
  9. Limited Database and Access. As per FBI guidelines, all fugitive’s fingerprints must be added to the central database, and sometimes due to piles of work, it gets delayed. This gives criminals time to flee away.
  10. Matching Fingerprints can be Time-Consuming. If investigators have to scientifically match the prints and make a report as per the judicial standards. He/she has to invest too much time in making a single report. That makes fingerprint evidence resource intensive.
  11. Aging Effects on Fingerprints. When a child is born the finger marks are too weak and hospitals usually use footmarks. Similarly, as the child ages, the development of injuries, scars, and occupation marks affects their authentication capabilities.
  12. Can be altered artificially. With tools such as photoshops, these prints can be electronically altered and result in false results.
  13. Not available sometimes. Sometimes amputated hands, fingers and charred bodies make no use of fingerprints in identification. In those cases, other biometrics or anthropometric data are usually used.

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