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Moral panic: Japanese girls risk fingerprint theft by making peace-signs in photographs / Boing Boing

As Cory Doctorow notes, why this headline should single out Japanese girls as being particularly at risk - and that this is the appeal of it - is much more disturbing than the fact that someone figured out how to lift fingerprints that can be used to access biometric authentication systems from photos taken using an 'ordinary camera' at a considerable distance (3 metres). He explains the popularity of the news story thus:

"I give credit to the news-hook: this is being reported as a risk that young women put themselves to when they flash the peace sign in photos. Everything young women do -- taking selfies, uptalking, vocal fry, using social media -- even reading novels! -- is presented as a) unique to young women (even when there's plenty of evidence that the trait or activity is spread among people of all genders and ages) and b) an existential risk to the human species (as in, "Why do these stupid girls insist upon showing the whole world their naked fingertips? Slatterns!")"

The technical feat intrigued me, so I found a few high-res scans of pictures of Churchill making the V sign, taken on very good medium or large format film cameras (from that era, 5"x4" press cameras were most common, though some might have been taken on smaller formats and/or cropped) with excellent lenses, by professional photographers, under various lighting conditions, from roughly that distance. While, on the very best, with cross-lighting, a few finger wrinkles and creases were partly visible, there was no sign of a single whorl, and nothing like enough detail for even a very smart algorithm to figure out the rest. So, with a tiny fraction of the resolution, I don't think you could just lift an image from the web, a phone, or even from a good compact camera to steal someone's fingerprints unless the range were much closer and you were incredibly lucky with the lighting conditions and focus. That said, a close-up selfie using an iPhone 7+, with focus on the fingers, might well work, especially if you used burst mode to get slightly different images (I'm guessing you could mess with bas relief effects to bring out the details). You could also do it if you set out to do it. With something like a good 400mm-equivalent lens,  in bright light, with low ISO, cross-lit, large sensor camera (APS-C or higher), high resolution, good focus and small aperture, there would probably be enough detail. 


  • Interesting but not so easy. And a few links away from there is the old news. I can say that if Bruce Schneier doesn't talk about it we don't need to worry Wink

    Viorel Tabara January 15, 2017 - 1:44pm

  • Well, at least it's easier than replicating a retinal scan.

    Gerald Ardito January 15, 2017 - 2:15pm

  • Interesting. This is a related free webinar:

    Register for Jan. 25 ACM-SIGAI Panel on Ethics in A.I with Joanna Bryson, ACM Fellows Michael Wooldridge and Stuart Wilson

    You are receiving this email because you registered for a previous ACM Learning Webinar. As such, we consider you a Webinar VIP.

    If you haven't done so yet, register for the next free ACM Learning Webinar, "Panel and Town Hall: Big Thoughts and Big Questions about Ethics in Artificial Intelligence," presented on Wednesday, January 25 at 12 pm ET. The panelists include Joanna Bryson, Associate Professor at the University of Bath; Stuart Russell, Professor at UC Berkeley and Adjunct Professor at UC San Francisco; and Michael Wooldridge, Professor at the University of Oxford. Moderating the discussion will be Nicholas Mattei, Research Staff Member at the IBM TJ Watson Research Laboratory and Rosemary Paradis, Principal Research Engineer at Leidos Health and Life Sciences.

    (If you'd like to attend but can't make it to the virtual event, register now to receive a recording of the webinar when it becomes available.)

    Note: You can stream this and all ACM Learning Webinars on your mobile device, including smartphones and tablets.

    There has been a torrent of news, announcements, and discussions in the last year about the ethics of artificial intelligence (AI) and the impact AI can and may have on society. Thinkers and groups from all corners have entered the discussion: from multiple statements by the White House about artificial intelligence and the future of work and the economy; to new academic and research centers for ethics in artificial intelligence at Oxford and the Allen Institute; to large corporations forming the Partnership for AI. We sit down with 4 panelists to discuss what's hot, what they see on the horizon, and to answer your questions. Interested students should also consider submitting their thoughts to the ACM SIGAI Student Essay Contest on the Responsible Use of AI Technologies where they can win cash and chats with leading AI researchers. More details are available at

    To submit questions before the day of the panel please visit

    Duration: 60 minutes (including audience Q&A)

    Joanna J. BrysonAssociate Professor at the University of Bath; ACM and AAAI Fellow 
    Joanna is a transdisciplinary researcher on the structure and dynamics of human- and animal-like intelligence. Her research covers topics ranging from artificial intelligence, through autonomy and robot ethics, and on to human cooperation. She holds degrees in Psychology from Chicago (AB) and Edinburgh (MPhil), and Artificial Intelligence from Edinburgh (MSc) and MIT (ScD). She has additional professional research experience with Oxford, Harvard, and LEGO; technology experience in Chicago's financial industry, and experience in international organization management consultancy. Bryson is presently a Reader (associate professor) at the University of Bath, where in April she will be running Society with AI (AISB 2017, CFPs due in January and February). She is also currently an affiliate of Princeton's Center for Information Technology Policy.

    Stuart RussellProfessor at UC Berkeley and Adjunct Professor at UC San Francisco; ACM Fellow, AAAI Fellow, and AAAS Fellow 
    Stuart received his B.A. with first-class honours in physics from Oxford University in 1982 and his Ph.D. in computer science from Stanford in 1986. He then joined the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley, where he is Professor (and formerly Chair) of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences and holder of the Smith-Zadeh Chair in Engineering. He is also an Adjunct Professor of Neurological Surgery at UC San Francisco and Vice-Chair of the World Economic Forum's Council on AI and Robotics. He is a recipient of the Presidential Young Investigator Award of the National Science Foundation, the IJCAI Computers and Thought Award, the World Technology Award (Policy category), the Mitchell Prize of the American Statistical Association and the International Society for Bayesian Analysis, and Outstanding Educator Awards from both ACM and AAAI. In 1998, he gave the Forsythe Memorial Lectures at Stanford University and from 2012 to 2014 he held the Chaire Blaise Pascal in Paris. He is a Fellow of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence, the Association for Computing Machinery, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His research covers a wide range of topics in artificial intelligence including machine learning, probabilistic reasoning, knowledge representation, planning, real-time decision making, multitarget tracking, computer vision, computational physiology, global seismic monitoring, and philosophical foundations. His books include The Use of Knowledge in Analogy and InductionDo the Right Thing: Studies in Limited Rationality (with Eric Wefald), and Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach (with Peter Norvig). 
    Michael WooldridgeProfessor at University of Oxford; ACM, AAI, EURAI, AISB, BCS Fellow 
    Michael is the Head of Department and Professor of Computer Science in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Oxford, and a Senior Research Fellow at Hertford College. He joined Oxford in 2012; before this he was for 12 years a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Liverpool. Michael’s main research interests are in the use of formal techniques of one kind or another for reasoning about multiagent systems. He is particularly interested in the computational aspects of rational action in systems composed of multiple self-interested computational systems. His current research is at the intersection of logic, computational complexity, and game theory. He has published more than 300 articles in the theory and practice of autonomous agents and multiagent systems. 

    He is an ACM Fellow, an AAAI Fellow, a EURAI Fellow, an AISB Fellow, a BCS Fellow, and a member of Academia Europaea. In 2006, he was the recipient of the ACM Autonomous Agents Research Award. In 1997, he founded AgentLink, the EC-funded European Network of Excellence in the area of agent-based computing. He is the President of the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI); was the co-editor-in-chief of the Journal Autonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems; an associate editor of the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research (JAIR); an associate editor of Artificial Intelligence journal and served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Applied LogicJournal of Logic and ComputationJournal of Applied Artificial Intelligence, and Computational Intelligence.

    Nicholas MatteiResearch Staff Member in the Cognitive Computing Group the IBM TJ Watson Research Laboratory 
    Nicholas is a Research Staff Member in the Cognitive Computing Group the IBM TJ Watson Research Laboratory. He serves as an ACM SIGAI Ethics Officer and is a co-orgnizer for the ACM SIGAI Student Essay Contest on the Responsible Use of AI Technologies Please consider submitting for prizes! His research is in artificial intelligence (AI) and its applications; largely motivated by problems that require a blend of techniques to develop systems and algorithms that support decision making for autonomous agents and/or humans. Most of his projects leverage theory, data, and experiment to create novel algorithms, mechanisms, and systems that enable and support individual and group decision making. He is the founder and maintainer of A Library for Preferences. He has worked at Data61/CISRO, NICTA, NASA, and the University of Kentucky.

    Rosemary ParadisPrincipal Research Engineer at Leidos Health and Life Sciences; SIGAI Treasurer 
    Rosemary Paradis is a Principal Research Engineer for Leidos Health and Life Sciences out of Gaithersburg, MD. Her current work as a data scientist for Big Data analytics includes building models in computational linguistics and natural language processing, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. She has an M.S. in Computer Science from Union College, and a Ph.D. in Computational Intelligence from Binghamton University. Dr. Paradis has a number of patents and publications in the area of recognition algorithms, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. Previous work at Lockheed Martin included the design and development of machine learning algorithms and managing the Core Recognition and Identification technology development for the USPS, the Royal Mail, and the Sweden Post Office. Dr. Paradis has held positions at General Electric, IBM, and also was a professor at Hartwick College, Ithaca College and Rochester Institute of Technology. She is currently the Secretary/Treasurer for the ACM Special Interest Group on Artificial Intelligence (SIGAI).



    Oscar Lin January 15, 2017 - 3:01pm

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