Re-posted from archive of infinite ideas machine 2004:
John Leyden in The Register’s, FBI apology for Madrid bomb fingerprint fiasco, points out the dangers of over reliance on supposedly ‘infallible’ biometric evidence. As it turns out, the FBI incorrectly matched a digital copy of a fingerprint found on a bag full of detonators to an Oregon lawyer – who also happened to be a Muslim convert.
This New York Times article reveals just how much faith the FBI had in their systems:
“Court records unsealed Tuesday showed that the Spanish authorities had raised questions about the FBI’s fingerprint match to Brandon Mayfield, 37, a Portland-area lawyer. Yet FBI officials were so confident of a match they described as “100 percent”, they never bothered to look at the original print while they were in Madrid on April 21 to meet with Spanish investigators.”
Reading further down the article, you begin to get a sense of the sort of ‘guilt by association’ that might become increasingly prevalent when or if our identity records are held in a centralised database. If this sort of thing happens when the dots are being joined by ‘intelligent’ human agents, how many more errors will occur when it’s a piece of software doing the detective work?
UPDATED 25/4/11: Seven years later, the Feds pay out millions to wrongfully accused terror suspects, including Brandon Mayfield.