Open Access
June 2018 Fingerprint science
Joseph B. Kadane
Ann. Appl. Stat. 12(2): 771-787 (June 2018). DOI: 10.1214/18-AOAS1140


This paper examines the extent to which data support the source attributions made by fingerprint examiners. It challenges the assumption that each person’s fingerprints are unique, but finds that evidence of persistence of an individual’s fingerprints is better founded. The use of the AFIS (Automatic Fingerprint Identification System) is problematic, because the algorithms used are proprietary. Additionally, the databases used in conjunction with AFIS are incomplete and not public. Finally, and most crucially, the finding of similarities between the mark found at a crime scene and a fingerprint on file does not permit estimation of the number of persons in a given population who share those characteristics. Consequently, there is no scientific basis for a source attribution; whether phrased as a “match,” as “individualization” or otherwise.


Download Citation

Joseph B. Kadane. "Fingerprint science." Ann. Appl. Stat. 12 (2) 771 - 787, June 2018.


Received: 1 July 2017; Revised: 1 November 2017; Published: June 2018
First available in Project Euclid: 28 July 2018

zbMATH: 06980475
MathSciNet: MR3834285
Digital Object Identifier: 10.1214/18-AOAS1140

Keywords: AIS , fingerprint persistence , Fingerprint uniqueness , individualization , match , source attribution

Rights: Copyright © 2018 Institute of Mathematical Statistics

Vol.12 • No. 2 • June 2018
Back to Top