Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems (AFIS) is not new but its use is becoming even more complex and necessary. By increasing the potential for successful identification of a suspect noticeably, for example, these systems have changed how authorities approach the investigation of a wide range of crimes and criminal activities.

The Department of Civil Registration and Census is initiating a programme to capture biometric data (fingerprints, iris, palm, rolled fingerprint, and facial recognition) of the legal residents in the country. More than 40,000 fingerprints have been recorded in AFIS already. The date will grow because criminals, suspects, people going abroad for studies or work, volunteers and private firearm’s license holders, among others, will have to get into the system.

The idea is that we will have a system from where we can trace and identify every citizen’s activities. In difficult and complicated situations, biometric samples such as physical or behavioural human characteristics that can be used to digitally identify a person to grant access to systems, devices or data, can come most handy.

The system’s usefulness can be established from the fact that since 2016, the Royal Bhutan Police received 252 cases of fingerprint identification, out of which 81 matched their database; 72 fingerprints were unfit for comparison.

But there are questions from the people—“Why AFIS, as if we are all criminals?” 

Such questions are only to be expected.

AFIS are not just for criminals. It is about the information of a person which can be used in many situations. A fire disaster, for example; an accident somewhere…AFIS are an efficient and effective tools, capable of scrutinising vast databases that can provide potential fingerprint matches in a matter of minutes.

Traditional crime besides, the new challenges, such as global terrorism and illegal immigration have only heightened the need for authorities to identify individuals that could pose a threat to people and the country. But this is just one aspect of AFIS’s usefulness.

Biometric identification system is based on the principle that each individual can have recognisable and verifiable data unique and specific to him or her. Scientifically, the probability of finding two identical prints is one in 64 billion, even with twins.

Building AFIS is good but because these systems must continue to develop through more in-depth research, what we need is trained individuals and highly sophisticated labs to do the job. Failure can be monumental otherwise. We cannot make such missteps.

AFIS are not just about crime and criminal activities; it is about efficient service delivery. Both the system and citizens stand to gain immensely.