Forensic Biometrics: the use of biometric data and databases in forensic applications

20 Jul 2023
Sala Vigo

Forensic Biometrics: the use of biometric data and databases in forensic applications

The second lecture will focus on forensic biometrics, the use of biometric data and databases in forensic practice. Forensic biometrics has primarily been developed to address requests of the criminal justice systems in relation with the inference of identity of source.

Questions about the source of biometric traces are relevant in several forensic applications: identity verification, closed and open-set identification, intelligence, investigation and evaluation of evidence in court:

Forensic biometrics is used for the verification of identity or identification of suspected persons, mainly using the fingerprint, face palm or DNA modes. In this context EU large scale IT biometric systems such as EU-VIS, SIS II and ECRIS-TCN are developing rapidly. It is also used for the closed- or open-set identification of persons in the context of terrorism using face images or disaster victim identification (DVI) using DNA material, fingerprints or dental records.

Forensic intelligence consists in linking criminal cases together, for example using DNA traces, fingermarks or face images.

Forensic investigation consists of selecting shortlists of candidates as potential sources of biometric traces, for example using fingermarks, DNA, face images or speech audio recordings.

Forensic evaluation focuses on the description of the strength of the evidence that an individual is the source of a trace, for example using body height measurements (feature-based approach) or speech recordings (score-based approach).

The use of forensic biometrics can also be extended to the examination of traces captured in less traditional conditions, such as conflict zones, and to answer other relevant questions, beyond the question of the source. These questions focus on the examination of the authenticity and integrity of the trace material and on the characterisation of people and their activities, generally on big amounts of data. This new type of requests opens challenges for the research and development in forensic biometrics, in terms of relevant datasets, biometric technology, forensic inference as well as legal and ethical aspects.

Before to be implemented in casework, forensic biometric methods need to demonstrate compliance to quality assurance. They need to be validated extensively with real and realistic forensic specimens to determine their limits and scope of validity when used by forensic examiners.