Fact vs. Fiction: 6 Myths About Fingerprints Busted


Many of us press our thumbs to the fingerprint time clock on our way to work without even a passing thought about the technology underlying this incredible system. We can now unlock our smartphones and even an entire building without needing a password or key. However, such complex technology always brings with it a number of myths that contribute to a general lack of understanding among users. 

To ensure you’re not harboring any false beliefs about fingerprints and biometric technology, let’s bust through six of the most common myths. 

Myth 1. Fingerprints are crucial to convicting criminals

While placing the defendant’s fingerprints at the scene of a crime certainly does lend weight to the prosecution’s case, fingerprints alone are generally not enough to convict. Indeed, fingerprints alone may not be enough to even arrest someone. Only when law enforcement officers have collected a comprehensive brief of evidence will they move to arrest and charge a suspect.  

Myth 2. Humans are unique in possessing fingerprints

Many people believe that fingerprints are unique markers possessed only by humans. Some suspect that perhaps other primates share this physical phenomenon with us, and if you’re one of these people, you are 100% correct. Chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas all have fingerprints, and the ridges improve their grip when climbing trees and holding objects. 

While you may have been onto the primate fingerprint connection, did you know that another type of mammal also has fingerprints? This creature is an adorable marsupial from Australia – the koala

Myth 3. Identical twins have identical fingerprints

As it turns out, identical twins aren’t as identical as they seem. Remarkably, no two people, identical twins included, have ever been found to possess precisely the same fingerprints. So, there’s no chance of sneakily clocking into work on behalf of your twin or framing them for a crime you committed (at least not via fingerprints). 

Though our fingerprints are all thoroughly unique, it is worth noting that lower-quality fingerprint scanners aren’t capable of capturing enough unique data points to provide accurate readings. So, such scanners often produce false matches when they encounter vaguely similar fingerprints. The lesson here is to always invest in high-quality equipment when it comes to biometrics!

Myth 4. Fingerprints never change

As it turns out, your fingerprints will, in fact, evolve over the course of your life. This evolution doesn’t stop when you reach adulthood either. Scientists have studied this phenomenon carefully since fingerprints are integral to solving crimes, and any inaccuracies in the technology could contribute to wrongful convictions. While fingerprints do change enough over the years for those changes to be noticeable under the microscope, they don’t morph so significantly that they could be mismatched. 

Myth 5. Everyone has fingerprints

This is perhaps the most surprising myth of them all, which is why we saved it for last. While most people certainly do have fingerprints, those born with a rare condition called adermatoglyphia may not. Individuals with adermatoglyphia lack the usual patterning of ridges, with no whorls, arches, or loops on their palms, fingers, toes, or the soles of their feet. 

While some people with adermatoglyphia have no other symptoms, many also get milia (small white bumps) on their faces, and they can be more prone to blisters. They may also have fewer sweat glands on their hands and feet. Adermatoglyphia can also be a symptom of conditions like Naegeli-Franceschetti-Jadassohn syndrome.

Keep these facts in mind the next time you access your laptop or business premises with the press of a finger or thumb. 

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