Are innocent people ever convicted based on fingerprint evidence?

Are innocent people ever convicted on based on fingerprint evidence? Fingerprints are 100% accurate, aren’t t they? Yes and No.

Yes – innocent people are convicted of fingerprints.

In the UK there have been two cases, stemming from one crime, in where people were wrongly convicted based on fingerprint evidence. One for murder and one perjury.

No – fingerprints are not 100% accurate. Fingerprint evidence relies on human interpretation, and humans make errors.

It took years of appeals and assistance from multiple countries for the two people in the UK have their convictions over turned.  If its happened not once but twice, it shows it can happen, and the fact its so hard to appeal against fingerprint evidence indicates how compelling fingerprint evidence is.  It is statistically unlikely after over a hundreds of thousands of trials cases around the world that only two people have been wrongly convicted.

Fingerprints require human interpretation, humans make mistakes. Two errors in the world ever, for a subject which takes years of training to be an expert and has been around for a hundred years, just does not sound right. And its not.

Errors have been made by the FBI who claimed that Brandon Mayfields fingerprint was linked to the Madrid bombing, that stated that they were 100% correct and it was an “absolutely incontrovertible match”; but they were wrong. The Spanish police showed the FBI were wrong, the US DoJ criticized the FBI, and the FBI had to pay Brandon Mayfield $2 million in 2006.

There have been other cases around the world, and these are the ones were the innocent person has ability to gather a strong enough defense team to over come phenomenal power of finger print evidence, it stands to reason that there are many other people that have been wrongly convicted, but could not prove it.

The LAPD have also had internal issues with fingerprints and errors, who else has?


Prum Convention: Technology

The Prum Convention, which has many detractors (not lost of which is the House of Lords), is quietly increasing its footprint.

Just this month the Belgium police released a new fingprint system, this has several benifits including being more accurate, but it also allows more effective exchange of data with those countries signed upto the Prum Convention.

But fingerprints are infallable, so surely that cannot be a problem?

Can you defeat fingerprint scanners?

Can you defeat fingerprint scanners?  Yes!

With fingerprint scanners increasingly in use, from schools to offices, to passports and border controls. How good are these things? Do they really work?

Well, if the video videos are anything to go by, the answers are “not very” and “no”

Full video on defeating fingerprints

Another Video on defeating fingerprints

New Home for Where is My Data

This site has now been incorporated to the site Where is Your Data?

This blog will still remain here, but lectures, quizzes, tests, and news will be put on the parent site.

Mistaken Identity: Brandon Mayfield

In  March 2004 US Citizen Brandon Mayfield was identified as  the primary suspect responsible for the Madrid Bombing by the FB, based on Fingerprint evidence. In April the Spanish National Police stated, in a written report that the finger print of Brandon was not a match. The following month, 6th May 2004, the FBI arrested Brandon Mayfield, 13 days later the Spanish police arrest the correct person, but the FBI did not fully release Brandon for five  more days.

The detention was based on a single, imperfect finger print. The FBI had not see the original print, despite being given the opportunity by the Spanish police. Brandon was released on 21st May 2004, two days after the Spanish police had identified the correct suspect, Ouhane Daoud and 1 month after they stated Brandon’s fingerprint did not match

On the 13th March 2004 when the FBI first searched their database “AFIS” – Automatic Fingerprint Identification Search”, the result was negative, and they asked for a new, better quality image, which they received on the following day, on 14th March.

On 15th March 2004, 20 “matches” were found during the search – 20 were found as the search was programmed to limit show only 20 – i.e it could/would have many more, if it had not been limited to 20 people.

Brandon Mayfield was ranked number 4 on the search. Details of the 20 people identified in the search were extracted and background checks made. Brandon Mayfield has the following Bio:

American citizen born in Oregon and reared in Kansas. He lives with his wife and three children in Aloha, Oregon, a suburb of Portland. Mayfield was 38 years old, a former Army officer with an honorable discharge, and a practicing Oregon lawyer. However his faith is listed as Muslim.

The persons ranked number 1 to 3 were not arrested.

On April 13, 2004, the Spanish National Police provided a written report to the FBI concluding that Mayfield’s fingerprints did no match the scene of crime.

The FBI continued to investigate Brandon Mayfield, including bugging his house, etc, then on 6th May 2004 Bradon was eventually arrested, he was put in solitary confinement, his family was told the evidence was “100%” and leaks to the press about the guilt of Brandon were made.

On 19th May 2004 the Spanish Police correctly identified who the fingerprint belonged to, an Algerian called -Ouhane Daoud. However the FBI continued to detain Brandon until the 21st – when the story made the news. Even then Brandon was still placed under home arrest until 24th May, when the FBI finally released him.

This case, along with the case of David Asbury, shows how large amounts of data, and fingerprints in particular, can and are misused.


The Register

FBI Statement

US Court Report

Report on the operation of the terrorism act 2000

In June 2007 Lord Carlile of Berriew, Q.C. produced a report entitled” REPORT ON THE OPERATION IN

2006 OF THE TERRORISM ACT 2000″ in this he made several comments about the Terrorism Act 2000, one of the more interesting comments is made on page 73 of the report, it states “significant amendment introduced by ATCSA2001 allowed authorisation for the obtaining from a detained person of fingerprints, restricted to cases of refusal of identity or where there are reasonable grounds to doubt the claimed identity. Used fairly, this is a proportional and reasonable provision, and should work adequately.Three years ago I recommended that statistics should be kept by the Home Office of the use of this power. Frustratingly, I have yet to be provided with them: they should now be made available.

Full Report

Passports and Fingerprints

The biometric passport in the UK has had its ups and downs over the past decade. From the US government essentially insisting on them following 9/11, on an international basis, via the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) and the US-VIST programme, through to the UK goverment attempting to push the National ID cards, despite huge opposition, until the recent shelving of plans.

In October 2004 Statewatch reported that “The Council of Justice and Home Ministers is today expected to push for fingerprints to become mandatory, in addition to facial images, for all passports and travel documents issued by EU Member States”

In October 2005 government plan was to “require fingerprints from all those applying for their first passport from [2006], with fingerprinting of those renewing existing passports to be phased in subsequently. First time applicants will have to attend one of 70 new passport offices for interview from next year, and can therefore be fingerprinted at the same time.” Reported by Pinsent Masons Outlaw

In November 2005 the price of the passports started to increase “The price of a standard UK passport is to rise by 21% to help fight fraud and boost security, the Home Office said…..The increase follows a 27% rise in the cost of a passport two years ago…The measures will also include the gradual introduction of biometric “ePassports” from February, which will include a scan of the passport holder’s facial features embedded in a chip.”

In July 2006, additional price hikes were introduced “A standard UK ten-year adult ePassport will cost £66 from 5 October {2006]”; this continued and in 2007 the Guardian reported that “The official cost of the controversial national identity card scheme has soared in the past six months by £840m, according to Home Office figures published yesterday. It means the total cost of the project is now £5.75bn.But the latest six-monthly estimate makes it clear that even this figure is far from likely to be the final bill“.

Throughout this time the UK Government continued to push for biometrics on the ePassport, including fingerprints. Despite the fact that there was no requirement under the ICAO guidelines to collect or maintain fingerprints on the passports. While the EU may be requiring the fingerprints the, there is no requirement for the UK to follow suit as UK retain an opt out from the Schengen.

Despite the soaring costs, the lack of requirement to take fingerprints, and the increased concerns about security of the data (with individuals cracking the passport security, cloning the passports, and even taking the fingerprint information off the e-passport chip), the UK government continued to push for the passports.

In 2008, the government has now  delayed the scheme until 2012, with the costs increasing again, following the publishing of the latest Identity & Passport Service cost report for the ID scheme. The report claims that the costs will reach nearly 1 billion by 2017,