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Validation of Computer-Assisted methods for Forensic Evaluation of Biometric Traces

Didier Meuwly
Netherlands Forensic Institute, Netherlands.


Biometric traces like fingermarks are collected at crime scenes; they are compared to reference fingerprints of possible donors stored in AFIS systems. If during the forensic investigation phase a candidate is selected and labeled as a suspected person, the next phase consists in evaluating if the fingermark and the reference fingerprint of this suspect have a common source or not. The forensic evaluation phase follows a four-step protocol: analysis - comparison - evaluation and verification (ACEV). Traditionally fingerprint examiners use this protocol and apply a human-based method to perform fingermark and fingerprint evaluation.
In the last decade the forensic biometric research has developed computer-assisted methods for the analysis, comparison and evaluation to support the practitioners in their quest for more objective methods.
According to the EU council framework decision 2009/905/JHA, the forensic service providers carrying out laboratory activities like forensic evaluation of fingermarks/prints will need to be accredited within 2015 under the norm ISO 17025. As a consequence of this EU decision the human-based and computer-assisted methods used for the forensic evaluation of fingermarks/prints will need to be validated.
Within forensic science guidelines exist for the validation of the human-based methods used for forensic evaluation. They mainly focus on the education and the competence assessment of the practitioners and therefore are not suitable for the validation of computer-assisted methods.
This presentation focuses on the validation of computer-assisted methods developed for the forensic evaluation of biometric traces, providing examples for the fingerprint modality. It presents the primary and secondary performance characteristics identified as relevant to describe the performance and the limits of likelihood ratios methods and the performance metrics used to measure them. It will also discuss the delicate question of setting validation criteria in a completely new context, in which no baseline exists.

Didier Meuwly

Didier Meuwly is born in 1968 in Fribourg, Switzerland. After a classical education (Latin/Philosophy), he graduated (1993) and obtained his PhD (2000) at the School of Forensic Science (IPS) of the University of Lausanne.
He currently works at the Forensic Institute of the Ministry of Security and Justice of the Netherlands (NFI). He was the leader of a project about the probabilistic evaluation of fingermark evidence, responsible of the fingerprint section and now a principal scientist at the Institute.
From 2002 to 2004, he was a senior forensic scientist within the R&D department of the Forensic Science Service (FSS), at the time an executive agency of the British Home Office.
From 1999 to 2002 he was      responsible of the biometric research group of the IPS. He is a founding member of 2 working groups of the European Network of Forensic Science Institutes (ENFSI): the Forensic Speech and Audio Analysis Working Group (FSAAWG) in 1997 and the European Fingerprint Working Group (EFPWG) in 2000. He is still active within the EFWPG and as leader of a ENFSI monopoly project. He is also a member of the editorial board of Forensic Science International (FSI).