Question Sheet: Fingerprint Evidence


Before reading:

  1. Has anyone ever asked you for your fingerprints? If so, why? 
  2. How do fingerprints vary from person to person?

During reading:

  1. Why did agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation accuse Oregon lawyer

    Brandon Mayfield of being involved in a deadly train bombing in Spain? 

  2. Compared with law-enforcement officials in the United States, how much

    earlier did police in Great Britain begin using fingerprints? 

  3. Why are fingerprints not as reliable for catching criminals as police would

    ideally like them to be? 

  4. Is it possible that two people could have identical fingerprints? 
  5. How are computers helpful for handling fingerprint identification? How are

    they frustrating for handling fingerprint identification? 

  6. In what ways besides solving crimes can fingerprint identification be used?

After reading:

  1. Nowadays, police seem to prefer DNA evidence to fingerprint evidence. Why do

    you think this might be the case? Compare the two types of evidence. When might a police officer rely more on fingerprint evidence than on DNA evidence and vice versa? See 

  2. The article states, “The more information that stores, banks, and

    governments collect about us, the easier it may be for them to track what we are

    doing. That makes many people uncomfortable.” Why do you think it makes some people uncomfortable? What are they afraid of? 

  3. Why would Walt Disney World want to use fingerprint scans for all ticket

    holders? What advantage does the technology have for the company? See (Electronic Privacy Information Center) and 

  4. How do your fingerprints vary? Design an experiment in which you test your

    fingerprints under several different conditions. 

  5. Not everyone’s fingerprints are in the FBI’s computer database. Generally,

    only people who work for the government, immigrants to the United States, and

    those people who have been arrested have their fingerprints saved. Do you think

    everyone in the United States should have their fingerprints taken? Why or why


  6. Besides the places mentioned in the article, where else might it be helpful

    to have fingerprint scans? Why?


Who was Francis Galton? When and where did he live? What role did Galton play in getting fingerprints accepted as a crime-solving technique? Why were his scientific contributions important? See (Wikipedia) and (Ridges and Furrows).


  1. Suppose that you are a writer for the TV series CSI: Crime Scene


    . Write a scene involving fingerprints. Where would the scene

    take place? Who would be in the scene? What would they say? What would they do?

    What would the camera show? 

  2. Write a short mystery story that involves a fingerprint door lock. See (Science

    Fiction Buzz).


The FBI has a database of more than 200 million fingerprint records, stored as images of inked impressions on paper cards. About 30,000 new fingerprint cards come in every day. How long would it take the FBI to double the number of fingerprint records in its database. See (American Mathematical Society).