Fingerprints and Other Biometrics
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. The Bureau’s Science and Technology Branch created the Programs Research and Standards Unit (PRSU) to strengthen our ability to combat crime and terrorism with state-of-the-art biometrics technology. In addition to the PRSU, our Criminal Justice Information 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.