It Has To Be Believed To Be Seen

April 17, 2004

I’m reading this and that about biometrics, and I have a quick question – fingerprints, as well as every other biometric method of identification I’ve read about including face-recognition, retina-scanning, and so forth is declared to be a unique identifier; you, and only you, have fingerprints, retinas or a face that looks like that.

Well, says who?

That’s it, really. I’m hardly versed in the science, but I can’t find the bit where it says “yeah, we took several thousand people’s fingerprints, and several thousand other people’s fingerprints, and we checked partials and stuff, and yeah – it turns out they’re actually unique identifiers.” Because, apparently, that information doesn’t exist.

I realise that I’m not qualified to make broad, sweeping generalizations about an entire field, here, but this appears to be true of the entirety of the forensic biometrics field at the moment.

It seems to me that if we’re going to put people in jail for some length of time, an in some places in the world, to death, that we might want to apply some kind of empiricism to the situation.