Live-Scan Fingerprinting Improves Accuracy And Saves Time

By Sherry Gross

Identifying people by comparing copies of their own skin patterns has been possible since the mid-19th century. This method involves carefully rolling a finger or digital group over a moist ink-pad, and then pressing them onto special paper. Getting the best outline of the fingertip skin patterns may require more than one attempt, and the ink is simply messy. Live-scan fingerprinting eliminates the smudges, while increasing accuracy.

There are few adults who have never been printed. Because the practice is so common, many feel uneasy about a corporation or governmental agency having easy access to personal, private information, including criminal history. Although there is always the possibility of system abuse, making the switch from manual, outdated technology to streamlined digital processing is a necessary transition.

Digital identification is not a new concept. Many agencies and corporations today already use biometrics, or the measurement of individual physical characteristics, in some security systems, and also in law enforcement procedures. Retinal scans compare individual eye characteristics, as do ear-shape scans. Vocal analysis has become prominent, and DNA analysis provides the most accurate personal identifiers.

Even though most people are not considered criminal, there are instances when verification is absolutely necessary. Even a part-time governmental job performed by old fashioned means, such as census-taking, requires a background check that includes fingerprinting. Most civilian jobs also require a basic level of background investigation, and many, such as teaching, piloting an aircraft or dispensing pharmaceuticals, require an in-depth investigation.

This is the era of big data. Although all Internet and phone traffic is currently being captured, a universal, easily-accessed database for needing to gather information does not yet exist. Current privacy laws prevent over-sharing of confidential data, yet each day there are thousands of new background check applications. That means a new live scan becomes necessary for each one, and the information may not be re-used.

IAFIS, or the Integrated Automated Fingerprint System, contains nearly 50 million entries in the current data-bank. It processes requests and retrieves linked information nationwide in about thirty minutes. It is not exclusively used to check on criminal activity, but also plays a key role in processing applications for social services, licenses, and other official documents. The device doing all that work resembles small copy machine.

It is not possible to buy secondhand equipment, and then use it to gather information for profit. Most states require purchase through an official vendor, and unauthorized requests or transmissions will fail. Common components include the primary palm or print scanner, a secured network for transmitting and receiving, specialized computer software, and thorough operator training.

No one wants to wait up to eight weeks for a simple background check, and digital scanning greatly reduces that formerly common delay. They create few errors associated with manual printing, and when a problem occurs, it can be quickly corrected. The process takes less than five minutes, and there is no danger of staining clothes or hands. Wait times are practically non-existent, and results usually arrive within 48 hours.

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