How reliable is fingerprint analysis?

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  • Published on:  Tuesday, August 7, 2018
  • Fingerprinting is used by law enforcement all over the world, but it may not be as reliable as you think.

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    Fingerprinting has been a vital tool in forensic science since 1911 when the first conviction was handed out based on fingerprint evidence. It’s been used in countless investigations to help convict or rule out suspects, but is it as reliable as we think?

    According to one study, researchers found that fingerprint analysts had a false positive rate (i.e. when they incorrectly conclude two prints are a match) of 0.1%. That may seem low, but that percentage reveals that innocent people are still being implicated in crimes.

    Brandon Mayfield is one of the most famous examples of a false positive identification. The FBI arrested him for the 2004 Madrid train bombing based on a wrongful fingerprint match.

    Most people agree that it’s a useful tool, but we might want to exercise a bit more skepticism when it comes to trusting fingerprints. is a news website that helps you cut through the noise and understand what's really driving the events in the headlines. Check out

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  • John Smith  (Aug 7, 2018)

    .1% is actually an enormous margin of error for a tool of this nature. That's 1 in every 1000. How many crimes are committed in the world every day? Probably millions. Let's pretend it's 1,000,000. If all of them relied heavily on fingerprint analysis, that's 1000 false positives every day.

  • Justice Hussein  (Dec 3, 2018)

    +Drop D Not to forget you need to be in time and place. With only 0.1% ( having different examiners make it a zero) time, place and circumstances means = PERFECT TOOL.

  • TheAceOfMagic  (Sep 18, 2018)

    DNA Analysis

  • Kyle Li  (Aug 7, 2018)

    They didnt show the suspect at the end!Just like a true cliffhanger. We'll have to wait next time, for the next episode of Dragon Ball Vox!

  • Pencil Stick  (Aug 12, 2018)

    HodorDroppingTheBeat, That's why they should use DNA analysis from saliva on the cup to find out who drank it.

  • Florian Walter  (Aug 9, 2018)

    But even if Mac touched the cup. Does it prove that he actually emptied the cup?He might just have OCD and placed the cup in the "right angle". Or maybe he held the cup so the actual perpetrator could commit his crime leaving a false trace as Mac is actually allergic to coffee... So many variables left to be uncovered.

  • thebahooplamaster  (Aug 7, 2018)

    I love the lightheartedness in this video

  • Rob Is A Comedian  (Aug 8, 2018)

    I hate it. Really, all these videos try to be cute and funny by doing the most basic comedy tropes of the past 20 years. You're not comedians. You are at best the funny guy in the office, but that doesn't mean I want to watch my coworkers youtube channel. Just get to the point Abed.

  • Văn-Hiếu Võ  (Aug 7, 2018)

    Now go watch the John Oliver video on forensic science and be depressed by how many people sentenced to death because of faulty forensice science.

  • Curiosity Culture  (Aug 7, 2018)

    I'm really curious about the data Apple has from all of our finger prints lol

  • IDon'tKnowWhyGoogl S  (Aug 17, 2018)

    They don't make much profit off of marketing. You do not have a personal profile, unlike what google does. They put you into groups where you won't be able to be tracked. And how will advertisers benefit from a fingerprint??? Well let's just not use any electronic devices then, everything can be hacked.

  • Draganoiu George  (Aug 16, 2018)

    tech can be hacked, alliegences change and lets not forget Marketing Purposes TM .

  • Soufian 27  (Aug 7, 2018)

    Wait so fingerprints are just compared side by side with the naked eye? I thought it was more complicated than that

  • Sasori  (Aug 7, 2018)

    Karl Frederik Færch Fischer You seem to be more knowledgable, how are partial fingerprints treated? From the pictures in the video it seems difficult to compare so that seems like the major reason for false positives, most fingerprints they get are probably not very clear and people may have similar prints. This is the reason that fingerprints while major clues, should be considered only as evidence that could help but not be absolutely definitive right?

  • Sasori  (Aug 7, 2018)

    Soufian 27 I thought they had some machine or software to scan the prints too but I guess not?

  • It's good enough for Apple!

  • Noah Silva  (Aug 16, 2018)

    Touch ID has a false positive rate of 0.002% (one in 50,000), the margin of error here is 0.1% (one in a thousand)

  • Spicy Citrus  (Aug 14, 2018)

    To everybody who can’t take a joke.... whooooooooooosh

  • Ryan C  (Aug 7, 2018)

    Plot twist, it was actually the Forensic science expert who drank the coffee all along

  • Kovacs Joseph  (Aug 12, 2018)

    Dammet dexter!

  • Snips  (Aug 7, 2018)


  • Van Hendrix  (Aug 7, 2018)

    Who else is watching this from another Planet?

  • Ryan Porter  (Aug 22, 2018)

    im watching from venus, 2239 ad

  • 200odd300  (Aug 13, 2018)

    Who else is watching dat ass*

  • matthew krishna  (Aug 7, 2018)

    I love you guys soo much, do u guys think than you could do a video on foster care/ the care system. Im a ward of the state and am constantly stereotyped, I've been denied jobs, school application and living arrangements because I live in care

  • J Girl  (Aug 7, 2018)

    I'm sorry to hear that :/ I had no idea that was the case. Is there anyway you can think of that we could help change the stigma?My grandparents used to Foster and I want to, too, after I'm financially secure enough to care for children, so it's something I care about a lot

  • matthew krishna  (Aug 7, 2018)

    D'Arci R , no my case worker is amazing and has helped me Sooo much. I just get so many stereotypes from people. Some people assume because Ive lived in foster care I must be a liar. I'm lucky because I work hard in school but so many kids don't get my oppertuneties. I feel like it would be a good topic for vox to explore and start a conversation around

  • Avery Lopez-Baines  (Aug 7, 2018)

    Wait, who drank your coffee? Was it Mac? We need to know who!

  • I wanna know the same thing! lol