BRAIN FINGERPRINTING: lie detectors of the 21st century

AS great programmes such as CSI will show us, science plays a central role in catching a killer or criminal in the 21st century. In the past, innocent people have been fried in electric chairs or had a noose put around their neck due to shoddy evidence against their names.

Modern day lie detectors (or polygraphs) have made judgment of crime suspects a little easier, yet they are not 100% accurate. However, a neuroscientist in Seattle has recently developed a device that incorporates his concept of ‘brain fingerprinting.’

Brain fingerprinting involves using an odd looking headband, flashing words and images on a computer screen, and a couple clicks of a mouse to determine whether or not a suspect is guilty or plain unlucky.

"It's a game changer in the field of global security," said Dr. Larry Farwell, Chairman of Brain Fingerprinting Labs who developed "brain fingerprinting" - a lie detector test for the 21st century.

Brain fingerprinting in action

Brain fingerprinting a nervous inmate
A rather nervous looking inmate takes the test

While polygraph tests rely on emotional responses, brain fingerprinting records how your brain reacts to words and images related to a crime. Obviously the reaction of someone who recognises such images would be notably different than the brain reactions of an innocent suspect.

"If the person was there, they get an 'ah ha!' response in the brain waves," said Farwell, “and it is this ‘ah ha!’ moment that can’t be covered up.”

"It’s an involuntary response that happens very quickly; it's not something you can control," he said. The solidness of such evidence is further backed by the idea that the brain can’t tell a lie.

Farwell claims that his technology is fool-proof, and unlike polygraphs, brain fingerprinting can be admitted in court. However, there is still resistance from some law enforcement agencies to employ the use of such technology.

"It took some time, it always takes time," Farwell said. "It took time for fingerprints, for DNA and now for brain fingerprinting." But Farwell feels confident that his guarantee will help more people accept it.

  • Dr. Farwell has worked with the CIA, FBI and law enforcement agencies around the United States. His cases include an innocent Iowa man finally freed after 23 years, and a serial killer in Missouri who eventually confessed.

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Biometric Fingerprint Technology: The Eikon Fingerprint Reader

Your fingerprint may soon replace your forgeable signature, and will do away with the need for usernames and passwords. Biometric fingerprint technology has already made it possible to do banking and identity analysis with your fingertip, and have now released a device that grants you unique access to your personal computer.

The Eikon fingerprint reader is a portable USB device that has been primarily developed for remote employees to gain access to corporate resources and networks with a swipe of their finger. According to a press release, this more convenient way of logging into corporate networks has resulted in increased productivity and has reduced the risk of major data breaches.

To put it simply, the fingerprint reader allows users to effortlessly swipe their finger across a device (instead of typing in usernames and passwords) to log into Windows, access password-protected websites, encrypt and decrypt files, switch users, and launch favorite applications.

The Eikon Fingerprint Reader

Eikon Fingerprint Reader (image:

The Eikon Fingerprint Reader (image:

The Eikon fingerprint reader is a product of UPEK Inc., which is hailed as one of the global leaders in enterprise and consumer biometric fingerprint solutions. Their authentication hardware and software are integrated into laptops from the world's top five largest PC makers, as well as USB flash drives, external hard disk drives, and mobile phones from leading manufacturers. In other words you’re not likely to escape this wave of technology if you buy a new phone or laptop in the near future.

I burnt one of my fingertips (fingerprint included) beyond recognition in a freak stove-related accident when I was younger. But luckily for me (and others who have similar war-stories) we still (hopefully) have nine fingers left with prints intact. I’m just worried that one of my other fingers will get chopped of by a mugger when word of this technology hits the streets.

The Eikon fingerprint reader works with Internet Explorer and Firefox, and is compatible with both Windows XP and Vista. It goes for $39 (roughly R300).

Related post: Your finger or your life!

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BIOMETRICS: Finger scanning could replace keys, bank cards & passwords

Finger scanning technologies have been a focal point of futuristic films such as Minority Report for years, yet they are currently finding their ‘footing’ in the real world. In fact they are likely to become an integral part of people’s everyday lives just as keys, bank cards and passwords are today.

A recent example of a finger-scanning technology is a cash machine developed by Hitachi in Japan, which uses a biometric security system that allows users to pay by simply having their finger scanned. The system scans and identifies the user’s veins on their finger – serving as a regular credit or ATM card.

Hitachi plans to launch an experiment in September this year to see whether it is commercially viable to introduce the system to banks, shops and other businesses. However, related technology is already being used by Japanese banking giants such as Mitsubishi to identify clients.

Fingerprint Reader

Biometric cash machine

Today such technologies can be found in police stations, high-security buildings and on PC keyboards. The pros and plentiful – such as not having to carry around credit cards, memorize PIN numbers and access codes, and being freed from the anxiety of losing one’s digitized identity as a consumer (it’s not exactly easy to lose one’s fingerprint). However, several cons exist too: instead of being asked for “your money or your life” you might now be faced with having to give up a finger instead!

Movies have already illustrated this worst case scenario (i.e. using a severed hand or finger to get past a scanner security system), yet technological innovations are finding ways to equip machines with heat and pulse detectors to verify whether a finger is in fact alive or not. However, all is not cream and cake; such systems can still be fooled by the more skillful criminal making use of gelatin or print molds of a real finger.

Although the pros seem to outweigh the cons when it comes to unleashing finger-scanning technologies on a mass scale, one can understand the anxieties of the everyday consumer. What it basically boils down to is that if “somebody steals your fingerprints, you’re pretty much out of luck for the rest of your life”.

Related post: The Power of Thumb


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