On the individuality of fingerprints

  • Pankanti S
  • Prabhakar S
  • Jain A
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Abstract

Fingerprint identification is based on two basic premises: (i) persistence: the basic characteristics of fin-gerprints do not change with time; and (ii) individuality: the fingerprint is unique to an individual. The validity of the first premise has been established by the anatomy and mor-phogenesis of friction ridge skin. While the second premise has been generally accepted to be true based on empirical results, the underlying scientific basis of fingerprint individ-uality has not been formally tested. As a result, fingerprint evidence is now being challenged in several court cases. We address the problem of fingerprint individuality by quantify-ing the amount of information available in minutiae points to establish a correspondence between two fingerprint im-ages. We derive an expression which estimates the proba-bility of falsely associating minutiae-based representations from two arbitrary fingerprints. For example, the probabil-ity that a fingerprint with 36 minutiae points will share 12 minutiae points with another arbitrarily chosen fingerprint with 36 minutiae points is 6.10 × 10 −8 . These probability estimates are compared with typical fingerprint matcher ac-curacy results. Our results show that (i) contrary to the pop-ular belief fingerprint matching is not infallible and leads to some false associations, (ii) the performance of automatic fingerprint matcher does not even come close to the theo-retical performance, and (iii) due to the limited information content of the minutiae-based representation, the automatic system designers should explore the use of non-minutiae-based information present in the fingerprints.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Biometric authentication
  • Fingerprints
  • Identification
  • Individuality
  • Minutiae
  • Probability of correspondence

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