‘Contactless fingerprints’ will soon let the police scan your prints with a smartphone

In the near future, your finger may no longer have to press against an ink pad to provide your identity.

A recent report from wired takes a look at “contactless fingerprinting” technology, a growing space that is beginning to see real-world applications, namely law enforcement and surveillance.

One such contactless fingerprint technology company, Telos, explained: wired how it works. Basically, this technology allows one to scan a person’s hand with a smartphone camera with a resolution of just two megapixels. The camera can scan a person’s fingers from a distance of about 5 centimeters and produce a “traditional fingerprint image”.

Teslas, along with five other fingerprint technology companies, has won a US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) contest called the Mobile Fingerprinting Innovation Technology (mFIT) Challenge last week. The competition was specifically designed to test the “performance of non-contact fingerprint systems and how they can be used by law enforcement.”

According to Biometric update who covered the competition, “experts say the evaluation shows that touchless fingerprint biometrics is now ready for practical implementations.”

However, civil liberties experts and privacy groups are understandably concerned about the use of such technology. Over the years, Mashable has addressed the issues with law enforcement’s use of biometrics, though the technology commonly discussed is facial recognition. A few years ago, Amazon beat by human rights organizations for selling its facial recognition technology to law enforcement. Studies have shown that such technologies imperfect and have high rates of false positives, especially when it comes to people of color. Simply put, these technologies would sometimes falsely identify a person.

A more immediate problem with contactless fingerprinting from its critics seems to be how easy it will now be for law enforcement to collect and collect even more data on the civilian population. As wired pointed out that in a 2020 investigation, the outlet found that a fingerprint scanning technology that connects to smartphones was being used to primarily target ethnic minorities in the UK.

Contactless fingerprints may seem less of a breach than facial recognition, but the same issues remain. The surveillance state easily picks up your personal identifiers.

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