Fingerprints are awesome, until they’re not

I’m filing this one under I’m a bit cynical about it. 

According to this story there have been a bunch of people who have paid to have their fingerprints surgically altered. 

Some of the people were workers in Kuwait who had been deported for criminal activity. By having their fingerprints altered, and a new identity created in the Indian ID system Aadhaar, they were able to apply for a new visa to Kuwait. 

The procedure involves cutting the upper layer of the fingerprint, removing a part of the tissue and re-attacking it. In a few weeks, once the wound was healed, it would slightly alter the fingerprint pattern for up to a year. 

This isn’t the first time something like this has hit the headlines. Back in 2009 a Chinese woman was found to have entered Japan with altered fingerprints. In her case,  patches of skin from her thumbs and index fingers were removed and grafted onto the ends of fingers on the opposite hand. 

In 2007 a Mexican doctor was charged in Pennsylvania with surgically removing drug traffickers’ fingerprints, substituting skin from the soles of their feet. 

There are countless stories of people filing down their fingers, using chemicals, placing special film over the top and so forth to alter their prints. 

Biometrics are convenient – they speed things up, especially when it comes to unlocking your phone or whatever. But we need to be careful in rushing into relying wholesale on new techniques and approaches thinking they will solve everything. They won’t.