Fingerprints and Other Biometrics

Fingerprinting

The FBI provides a variety of services, information, and training involving biometrics—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. In an effort to harness new technologies and improve identifications, the Bureau developed its Next Generation Identification (NGI) system, which provides the criminal justice community with the world's largest and most efficient electronic repository of biometric and criminal history information. 

Over the years, the FBI and its partners in the law enforcement and intelligence communities have used biometrics 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. It has 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.

Biometric Initiatives 

We continue to look to new scientific advances to increase the range and quality of our biometric identification capabilities, including these three initiatives:

Global Collections Program

Through the Global Collections Program, we foster national and international relationships related to biometrics in support of counterterrorism and other law enforcement efforts. Our initiatives include:

  • Foreign Fingerprint Exchange
  • Quick Capture Platform
  • Flyaway Program

Biometric Center of Excellence

With more and more biometric technologies being developed, we felt it was time to take the next step—to launch a coordinated effort to harness the benefits of these capabilities for law enforcement and national security purposes. That’s why, in late 2007, we established the Biometric Center of Excellence (BCOE), located at and managed by our Criminal Justice Information Services Division in West Virginia. The BCOE website provides you the most up-to-date information regarding FBI biometric standards initiatives from the Criminal Justice Information Services Division.

For more information, visit the Biometric Center of Excellence website.

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:

Checks on Employees of Banks and Related Entities 

Criminal History Record Information (CHRI) Checks on Employees of Banking-Related Institutions or Entities

Public Law 92‑544 (found in the notes to 28 United States Code § 534) authorizes the FBI to exchange records "with officials of federally chartered or insured banking institutions to promote or maintain the security of those institutions." The same broad language is used in the regulation governing such checks at 28 CFR § 50.12(a).

Pursuant to this authority, the banking industry for many years has conducted criminal history record information (CHRI) checks on employees of federally chartered or insured banking institutions. Due to evolving business practices and methods of operation in the banking industry, the FBI has received requests from the industry for clarification of the authority to conduct CHRI checks on employees of other entities, such as bank subsidiaries, holding companies, and contractors, that have a direct relationship with a banking institution, affecting the security of the institution, and the authority to provide the results of the CHRI checks to officials of bank holding companies involved in the human resource decisions of banking institutions held by such companies. The FBI takes this opportunity to clarify that: (1) employees of bank subsidiaries, holding companies and contractors who are intimately involved in the management or operations of a banking institution or who otherwise have access to a bank’s restricted areas, infrastructure, or assets, may be subject to CHRI checks, and (2) officials to whom criminal history record checks results may be returned include officials of bank holding companies who are involved in the human resource decisions of banking institutions held by such companies.

FBI Biometric Training 

Recording Friction Ridges (e-Learning Module)

Friction Ridge Identification is the method of identification using the impressions made by the minute ridge formations found on the palmar surface of the hand. No two persons have exactly the same arrangement of friction ridge detail.

For more information, visit the Recording Friction Ridges (e-Learning Module) website.