Fingerprints & Other Biometrics
Biometrics are the measurable biological (anatomical and physiological) or behavioral characteristics used for identification of an individual. Fingerprints are a common biometric modality, but others include things like DNA, irises, voice patterns, palmprints, and facial patterns.
Over the years, biometrics has been incredibly useful to the FBI and its partners in the law enforcement and intelligence communities—not only to authenticate an individual’s identity (you are who are say you are), but more importantly, to figure out who someone is (by a fingerprint left on a murder weapon or a bomb, for example), typically by scanning a database of records for a match.
The FBI has long been a leader in biometrics. We’ve used various forms of biometric identification since our earliest days, including assuming responsibility for managing the national fingerprint collection in 1924. More recently, the Bureau’s Science and Technology Branch created the Biometric Center of Excellence (BCOE) to strengthen our ability to combat crime and terrorism with state-of-the-art biometrics technology. In addition to the BCOE, our Criminal Justice Services Division—with its vast repositories of fingerprints and biographical data—is the FBI’s natural focus for identity management activities. However, important additional biometrics-related work is being undertaken by the FBI Laboratory, such as DNA activities, while voice and face recognition initiatives are being pursued in our Operational Technology Division.
All About Fingerprints
Fingerprints vary from person to person (even identical twins have different prints) and don’t change over time. As a result, they are an effective way of identifying fugitives and helping to prove both guilt and innocence. Learn more:
- Next Generation Identification Fact Sheet (pdf)
- Criminal Background Checks
- Name Checks for Fingerprint Submissions (pdf)
We continue to look to new scientific advances to increase the range and quality of our biometric identification capabilities. For more information:
- Biometric Center of Excellence: Website | Story
- Combined DNA Index System (CODIS)
- Next Generation Identification: Overview | Story
- FBI Biometric Standards
Through the Global Collections Program, we foster national and international relationships related to biometrics in support of counterterrorism and other law enforcement efforts. Our three initiatives include:
FBI Biometric Training
- Guidelines for Preparation of Fingerprint Cards and Associated Criminal History Information (pdf)
- Fingerprint, Criminal History Record, and Facial Comparison and Identification Training
- Ordering Fingerprint Cards and Training Aids
- Recording Legible Fingerprints
- Guidelines for Capturing Palmprints and Supplementals (pdf)
- Records Testimony Program