Advanced Imaging


Advanced Imaging Magazine

Updated: July 8th, 2008 05:26 PM CDT

Perspective: Don't Blame the Image Medium


While reading a recent news story about digitized fingerprints, I was reminded about the old saw: "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater."

The Chicago Tribune recently ran a story about the quality and authentication of digitized fingerprints. The point of the story, "Digitized Prints Can Point Finger at Innocent," was that these digital replicas fall short in terms of resolution and that these crucial pieces of evidence are too easily manipulated. The result is that innocent people can be implicated in crimes, while true suspects can be excluded from scrutiny.

"Across the country," the Jan. 3 story read, "police departments and crime labs are submitting fingerprints for comparisons and for entry into databases, using digital images that may be missing crucial details or may have been manipulated without the FBI knowing about it."

The story goes on to say that police departments are not generating digitized high enough resolution and are not authenticating them. The FBI does not know when, or if, a police agency has altered the images that are submitted to its electronic database, which contains some 48 million sets of fingerprints.

I do not discount this possibility. However, this doesn't mean that these images should be discounted prima facie. The incredible speed in which law enforcement can search through these fingerprints are too valuable of an asset to be discounted whole hog.

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