Fingerprints Reveal More than Identity

Posted on: September 27th, 2010  |  No Comments

Read the full article at The New York Times »

In the past, fingerprint have been used to placed defendants at the scene of crimes when fingerprints were present on chemical containers, construction materials, windows, hand-tools and weapons. Now, technology allows law enforcement to work backwards, i.e., instead of looking on an object for a fingerprint, investigators can look at a fingerprint and see what might have been touched. Drugs, explosive chemicals, and poisons leave behind a chemical signature within a fingerprint, giving police a great deal of information when examining and evaluating physical evidence.

The technology was introduced by Dr. R. Graham Cook, Purdue University. The focus of the project was not law enforcement, but rather for use in the medical field. For instance, the test can be used to quickly identify potentially cancerous cells quickly during surgery.

Notwithstanding the technology’s medical background, its implementation by law enforcement raises several concerns:

As it becomes cheaper and more widely available, the Desi technology has potential ethical implications… Instead of drug tests, a company could surreptitiously check for illegal drug use by its employees by analyzing computer keyboards after the workers have gone home, for instance.”

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