Scientists say U.S. Visit can be hoodwinked

The U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator System program's method for matching travelers' fingerprints with federal databases has been questioned by biometrics experts.

Two Stanford University specialists in biometrics and game theory published an article in the May 24 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, contending that U.S. Visit's image-matching system had a detection probability of only about 53 percent for poor-quality fingerprints. U.S. Visit uses a two-fingerprint matching method.

'About 5 percent of the general public and 10 percent of those on the watch list have bad-quality fingerprints due to either genetics or hard labor,' according to a statement by Lawrence Wein, lead scientist on the project. 'We assume that terrorist organizations will eventually defeat the U.S. Visit program by employing a majority of people whose fingerprint quality is either naturally bad or deliberately made so.'

Officials at the Homeland Security Department were not immediately available to respond to the scientists' statements.

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