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January 31, 2014

Fingerprints, or friction ridge skin impressions, are a unique form of identification. No two fingerprints are alike – not even those of identical twins. As a result, the reliance on fingerprints for identification has a long history.


The History of Fingerprinting

The first use of fingerprint identification can be traced back to the year 200 B.C. in China. To ensure the protection of private documents, the Chinese would roll their documents, bind it with string, and seal the string with clay. The clay was then marked with the author’s name and the impression of the author’s fingerprint. The seal ensured that the document was not tampered with before its intended recipient. It is the first known instance that archeologists have found for people using fingerprints to sign to their identity. The modern-day practice of collecting fingerprints for classification and comparison began in the late 19th century. Sir Edward Richard Henry developed the first fingerprint classification system which quickly spread across the globe. In 1903, fingerprinting technology was introduced and rapidly accepted in the United States. Adopted first by the New York Police Department, fingerprinting technology has now become a vital tool used for identification, solving crimes, and enabling employers to obtain a more thorough understanding of their employees than ever before with the addition of a criminal record history report.


Changes in Fingerprinting Technology

The traditional means of fingerprinting was developed by Dr. Henry Faulds in the late 1800s. Using a well of ink or a stamp, a finger is coated with ink and then rolled across a piece of paper. The ink and paper method of fingerprinting is effective. However, more recent technological advances allow for a more streamlined process. “Paper-based capture, submission, and processing of fingerprints are time-consuming and prone to errors, ” says Jesse Berger, Vice President of Global Employment Screening Solutions at Pinkerton. “Now, fingerprints can be stored, shared, and analyzed digitally, making them easier to access while also kept safe from long-term effects of air, moisture, and other elements.” With new Livescan technology, such as Pinkerton’s certified live scan workstation (LSW), ink and paper have been replaced by a biometric scanning device. An individual simply places a finger on a flat screen and a high-resolution image is captured. While ink and paper fingerprints are still a viable option, and part of mainstream crime prevention methods, more and more security professionals are implementing digital fingerprinting.


Secure Web Fingerprint Transmission

The trend towards fingerprint digitalization is evident in the recent Secure Web Fingerprint Transmission (SWFT) that was cleared under the National Industrial Security Program. A United States Department of Defense memorandum issued in July of 2010 required that:

…by December 31, 2013, DoD components shall transition to electronic capture and submission of a full set of fingerprints (10 individual rolled prints, 2 thumbprints, and 2 our-finger sets of prints, compliant with current Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) standards) in support of all background investigations. Components are responsible for procuring, distributing, and maintaining electronic 10-print fingerprint capture devices, associated capture/format/submission software, and other equipment as required to comply with this policy.

This is the first in what Berger predicts will become common practice. “When you eliminate the manual process for a digital scanner, the process is expedited and accountable, ” he says. In all, companies can expect a continued shift towards digital fingerprinting. The benefits of the live scan technology are numerous. For more information on how Pinkerton can assist you in fingerprinting visit our fingerprinting page on our website. 

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