Newly publicized fears that a user’s fingerprints could be lifted from a well-lit photograph are unfounded, with the tall tale gaining traction thanks to exaggerated media reports blowing new security research far out of proportion.
Japan’s National Institute of Informatics is currently developing technology that could potentially prevent the theft of a person’s fingerprint from a variety of methods — hypothetically including a high-resolution fingerprint. To that end, the NII has developed a transparent titanium oxide film that users can wear to hide their fingerprints.
While the NII is investing in fingerprint security, there is no evidence that hackers could have actually copied a person’s fingerprint from a single photograph with current technology.
That didn’t stop a number of major news agencies to pick up on the story, warning of the potential dangers of flashing the two-fingered “peace sign” in a photograph. The bogus reports suggested that users who make the universal gesture could have their identity stolen.
Those same reports also failed to note that the NII team are pushing their own antitheft technology. Various news organizations presented the information as a pressing public safety issue, rather than noting that the team behind the research stands to profit from such fears.
That’s not to say that there aren’t very real concerns with sharing photos publicly on the internet, including the growing use of advanced facial recognition technology by law enforcement and even the general public.
However, with no evidence that hackers are actually using photographs to duplicate fingerprints for identity theft, Snopes.com was left to conclude that the trumped-up media reports are unproven. And for the time being, selfie takers should feel comfortable baring all in front of the camera — on their fingertips, at least.