Breaking NEWz you can
compiled by Jon Stimac
A new textbook on fingerprint recognition is
available. This text emphasizes technology and AFIS as the authors
explore fingerprint sensing, analysis and representation, matching,
classification and indexing, synthetic fingerprint generation, multimodal
biometric systems, individuality, and security issues. The book is
available at amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0387954317/clpex-20
More information about the book is available at: http://bias.csr.unibo.it/maltoni/handbook/toc.html
Last week, we looked at a new product for the development of latent prints
on thermal paper. (http://www.bvda.com/EN/prdctinf/en_thermanin.html)
If anyone conducts a validation study and is interested in publishing it,
please let me know. This week, Craig Coppock shares his thoughts on
uniqueness and individualization.
by Craig Coppock
The reason that the science of fingerprint identification is
having difficulty articulating the exact daubert requirements is not an issue
of science, it is an issue of complexity. The opponents of fingerprint
identification and many other forensic sciences ask for exact statistics and
rates for various processes and methodologies. However, without a specific
set of numbers or limits on the information at issue, it becomes impossible to
define such statistics accurately and meaningfully. In some cases, processes
have definite boundaries. DNA for instance, has known numbers to draw
statistical information from. However, in cases where the quantity and
qualitative values vary we are unable to assign accurate probabilities. These
types of overly complex statistical studies must be accomplished in a
different manner. In the normal course of statistical mechanics one can
reasonably define the parameters of a problem, yet with complex variables,
statistical estimates must be made of all the parameters. In turn, the
resulting solution is also an estimate. “The model must, by definition, be
designed on a subset of features.” The reality is that probability
statistics are unable to deal with the extreme complexity of assigning limits
or boundaries to large quantities of unique, random information available for
calculation. This is a very common feature of nature in both biological and
non-biological structures. The only real limitation is on our lack of
understanding of the complexities of nature and of our inability to accept
something that is impossible to define in absolute terms. If our need is for
absolute definitions, the error is ours.
It is short-sighted to think that complexity and our lack of
ability to define such events should prevent such processes from being used in
an accurate manner for individualization. In most cases such comparative
analyses utilize more information than would DNA. Statistically, the value of
such analyses would prove even more accurate than DNA, even though by their
very nature that same complexity renders them un-definable. Identical twins
are a prime example of this. Even a minute section of friction skin can
distinguish between identical twins. It goes without saying that this is an
advantage over DNA and also with the previous anthropometry system with its
We must remember that information is embedded into things at
various levels in relative ways. To focus on a single aspect is to devalue
the rest of the information. However, once individualization is hypothesized,
the rest of the information is generally regulated to a supporting state,
rather than used for further detailed comparative use. In simple terms, we
don’t need to (also) look at the back of a person to finish our recognition of
them. Nor do we need to look at all the areas of friction skin to verify a
single fingerprint, or for that matter, review all the friction skin in the
world! “There comes a point when there is no perceived need to challenge the
principle anymore. The hypothesis is then declared demonstrated and perceived
as a certainty. The process itself is highly scientific and should not be
viewed as an expression of faith...” The
next step in the methodology is verification of that hypothesis. With
fingerprint identification, the original comparison is a provisional
identification and only becomes complete and valid when the comparison is
verified by another qualified examiner.
Accordingly, certain questions should be asked of the process;
Are proper protocols and methodology being followed to ensure accurate
results? Are the examiners properly trained to analyze the information? It
is here that most errors are found within the sciences.
Within the development of friction ridge skin during the early
fetal stages, randomness prevails. Dr. Babler’s embryology research has
brought to light new information on the development of friction skin. This
includes information on both spatial and chronological events involving
friction skin development. While the genetic material organizes different
cells to accomplish different tasks, the actual growth process of cell
division results in randomly generated information throughout the friction
Random: Having no specific pattern or purpose; selected in a
way that each member of a set has an equal chance of being chosen. On a
larger scale, randomness is in itself statistically unique. This is a key
point. “Uniqueness is information that allows for a relative distinction or
possibly an individualization.” “It doesn’t even make sense to conduct
statistical studies on a pattern which is biologically unique, such as
friction ridge skin! Why bring statistical concepts into the debate when in
reality, the chance of finding another identical object is by definition
zero?” Uniqueness is an overly complex subject may be difficult to
accurately relate to laypersons in the courts. The underlying randomness,
hence uniqueness, of such subjects cannot be accurately defined mathematically
for probability purposes. This is especially true in variable information
models such as fingerprint identification, shoe impressions, facial
What can be said, is that individualization is based on
examination of both differential information and matching information drawn
from random processes at a more fundamental level. A dictionary definition of
differential is: The degree or amount to which similar things differ.
Showing a difference. In comparative analysis the difference is just as
important as that which is the same. In effect, likeness is relative to
difference and visa versa. In fact, it is infinite difference which makes
individualization possible. Individualization requires that all else be
different. Due to nature’s built-in randomness, thus uniqueness, we
understand that matching randomness is not only uncommon, with sufficient
randomness it is, for all practical purposes, impossible! Differential
randomness, or the degree of difference in items of chance, is what nature is
best at. This is the construction of all tangible things. In reality there
is no difference between true randomness and differential randomness, the
point here is to illustrate our difficulty in comprehending such matters.
Again, the link between the proper analysis of the information and
understanding the value of that information is quality training and
methodology. Proper training and methodology is essential to all aspects of a
science. Latent print examiners are no exception.
The science of fingerprint identification itself is sound.
Fingerprint identification is validated on a daily basis as millions of
comparisons are made by software programs specifically designed to search for
matching fingerprints. Here the statistics are very clear. In the many
billions of searches thus far, zero fingerprint impressions from different
persons have been found to be the same. Accordingly, the differences form a
demonstrated basis for individualization. The infrastructure for such
comparisons by human examiners relies on sufficient and standardized training
as the examiner must consider much more information than does a computer. It
is imperative for the examiner to properly evaluate the information.
In a related topic, consider the concept of recognition.
Recognition as it relates to identification and individualization is; To
acknowledge the validity or reality of. At what point can a particular
item be recognized? What does it take to acknowledge the validity or reality
of something? At what point does a comparative analysis provide sufficient
information for an individualization? The concept of recognition is based on
the organization of unique information. It is the uniqueness of the
information that allows for recognition. Of course, this is also related to
randomness. Yet, just how can a concept such as recognition be defined? It
is replete with complexity. Again, we are assigned only to describe such
matters within a broad foundation of inelegant statistical mechanics.
No matter how much we would like to define all aspects of nature
for the sake of abbreviated legal discussion, complexity continues to keep us
at a distance. This is especially true in the variable informational world of
forensic science. Accordingly, aspects such as error rates, probability, and
testing must first be carefully defined for the specific issue which is to be
addressed. Only then can progress be made and our understanding expanded.
When one does not know which way to talk, he will invariably talk in circles.
We must understand that probability theory, does in fact, deal with randomness
and estimation. The point is that we cannot expect exactness in the
statistical evaluation of fingerprint identification, nor is exactness
necessary for science. “The sciences do not try to explain, they hardly even
try to interpret, they mainly make models. By which, with the addition of
certain verbal interpretations, describes observed phenomena. The
justification of such a mathematical construct is solely and precisely that it
is expected to work.” (John Von Neumann)  Accordingly, our goal is to
improve our fingerprint identification model, not justify it.
Craig A. Coppock
Forensic Specialist, CLPE
1. Champod, Christophe: Views on statistics
and Probabilities in latent fingerprint comparison. The Detail 1-7-02
2. Coppock, Craig: Minimum Information And
Fingerprint Identification. The Detail 12-2003
3. Gleick, James (1987) Chaos: Making A New
Science. Penguin Books, New York
Differential Randomness And Individualization.
To discuss this Weekly Detail, log on to the CLPEX.com
message board: (http://www.clpex.com/phpBB/viewforum.php?f=2)
More formal latent print discussions are available at
Working for a hands-off
What can you do when you work for a manager who keeps his[/her] distance and
offers little feedback, training or direction? A boss who keeps his[/her]
distance can be frustrating because you don't know where you stand with
him[/her]. Take these steps to involve your
boss in your day-to-day activities:
1) Take the initiative. Don't let his inertia block you or your
department's progress. If you want feedback, ask. If you want to start a new
project, present it as fully and carefully as possible.
2) Offer to take on some of his[/her] responsibilities. Let your boss
know that your slate is clear and you can help out with a variety of
projects. Tell him[/her] which projects you think could use your attention..
3) Ask to team up with other departments, particularly ones with more
involved managers. Suggest projects you could work on together. It'll be
good for the company and satisfying for you. You'll get your efforts
recognized by others in management and open your boss's eyes to your
-From the November 2003 issue of Communication Briefings, briefings.com.
Do you want to be a
hands-on Manager? Command the respect you deserve!
Do you feel that people ignore your
ideas or that you have trouble resolving conflicts with co-workers? If so,
your body language and communication style may be preventing others from
taking you seriously. Use these tips to
create a more professional presence:
1) Speak clearly and loud enough to be heard. If you mumble, your
co-workers and boss may not hear what you're saying. Your comments or
questions will be easy to ignore.
2) Drop weak words. Words such as "maybe" or "perhaps" and phrases
such as "I think" or "I guess," can make even the most intelligent person
sound tentative. Example: When
someone asks you what time a meeting starts say, "The meeting is at 3 p.m."
not "I think the meeting is at 3 p.m."
3) Stop fidgeting. Don't play with your hands. It's hard for others
to take you seriously when you're wringing your hands, doodling or twisting
3) Make eye contact. If you constantly look away from people when
you're talking to them, you give the impression that you're nervous or
3) Apologize only when it's appropriate. Don't say you're sorry for
something beyond your control. And don't start with apologies such as "I hate
to bother you..." every time you ask your co-workers for their input on a
-From the editors of Communication Briefings, November 2003, briefings.com.
UPDATES ON CLPEX.com
Updated the Bookstore with about 20 new
books, including 4 new titles not previously listed. Check out new items
from Cummins and Midlo to Montagna... from Henry to Cole.
Updated the Newzroom
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Until next Monday morning, don't work too hard or too little.
Have a GREAT week!