The usefulness of databases for solving crimes

Forensic computing is the study of various data of forensic significance with the aim of comparing, representing, processing, and communicating information from and to databases. Forensic science deals with physical evidence collected at a crime scene. Most often, the examination of physical evidence involves the process of comparison. For comparison purposes, there must be a known or reference sample along with a control sample. If the case evidence is to question the quality or identification from a matrix of similar products/individuals or the analysis of behavior prediction, then comparing with a reference standard is vital. Computing is highly essential in forensic science, as everything related to evidence needs to be recorded for future reference during examination. This record should include all private or public sectors that obtain data about the products. In the case of products like firearms, tools, drugs, or footwear, information such as manufacturing date stamps, components used, distribution demographics, cost and sales information, transaction records, product updates, etc., must be collected. Information from individual people including fingerprints, iris scans, facial recognition, dental data, DNA data, etc., are collected by governments or law enforcement agencies for good governance and investigation procedures.

Essentially, any database works on the collection or creation of systematic data, processing of data into suitable computer formats or file systems, storage of data on physical devices, servers, clouds, etc., data archiving, data retrieval, and data security. Depending on the amount of data stored, appropriate platforms and systems are chosen. Thus, each database is quite unique in its operation with very limited access concessions. For example, data collected by AFIS is not accessible to all US citizens nor is it freely available or purchasable on the internet. The network, servers, customer and user accounts, etc., are not open to the general public but are handled only by police departments and the scientific working groups behind their creation. The data is maintained to propel the crime investigation process related to fingerprints, automatically finding culprits by scanning fingerprints and digitally comparing them with those in the databases.

Not all databases are restricted from public use. Databases such as Standard Operating Procedures relevant to scientific research are openly available on the internet. For instance, NIST, SWGDOC, etc., are bodies conducting research on various aspects of forensic investigations, scientific procedures to be followed in labs, and issue standards to be adhered to for conducting experiments and tests that are also included in ISO certifications.

Some data are partially available to the public, like car make and model, shoe manufacturing details, thread patterns of tires from various brands, paint compositions, etc., but only upon request from law enforcement and investigators and detectives. These data are not recorded on the public domain database server nor consulted through internet platforms. Since the data are maintained by private organizations, data is kept according to the company policies. If information on tire tread patterns from MRF is required, the request along with the purpose of use has to be sent to the company’s headquarters. It is also possible to approach authorized company personnel to provide the data. The company will maintain the data on its secure servers, and only privileged database account holders can access it.

Fingerprint Databases


FACTS is an advanced automated fingerprint identification system developed by the Central Fingerprint Office. It uses image processing and pattern recognition techniques to capture, encode, store, and match fingerprints, including the comparison of latent prints. FACTS was created to maintain a database of criminal fingerprints registered at police stations. It facilitates identification-oriented querying for searching ten prints among themselves, searching latent prints among themselves, and remote query processing by the application device server to the database server through web-based query systems, creating a criminal attribute database according to new entries nationwide. CFPB has a database of 11,342,35 fingerprint records as of 31/12/2017. (NCRB, 2018)


The Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) is a national and computerized system for storing, comparing, and exchanging fingerprint data in digital format, enabling faster and more accurate fingerprint comparisons. It is located at the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division of the FBI in Clarksburg, West Virginia, and managed by it. IAFIS provides three main services:

  • Repository of information on criminal histories, fingerprints, photographs of criminal subjects, as well as information pertaining to federal, military, and civilian employees and other authorities.
  • Provides positive identification of individuals based on the submission of fingerprints (both through ten-print and latent prints).
  • Provides tentative identification of individuals based on descriptive information such as name, date of birth, distinctive body marks, and identification numbers. (FBI, n.d.)

Biometric Databases


IDENT is a continuously growing database containing biometric and other personal data of over 200 million individuals who have entered, attempted to enter, and exited the United States of America. IDENT was the original border control fingerprint system established in the mid-nineties with Cogent as the fingerprint provider to identify individuals attempting to illegally cross into the United States through the northern and southwestern borders. IDENT enhances the security of citizens and visitors, facilitates legal trade and travel, ensures the integrity of the immigration system, and protects the privacy of anyone entitled to enter the country. HART (“Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology”) is the next-generation system that will replace the current IDENT in the coming years. (Thales, n.d.)


(European Dactyloscopy Database for Asylum): In Europe, the Eurodac biometric system is the world’s largest multijurisdictional AFIS, serving 27 countries. EURODAC contains only fingerprints (along with the data and place of registration) and no other personal information. Therefore, EURODAC facilitates the judicious and transparent processing and reception of asylum applications from those who may need the protection Europe offers. (Thales, n.d.)

As mentioned above, various AFIS exist for all countries worldwide. The concept is the same: collecting fingerprints of individuals, classifying and processing the prints, and storing them.

UIDAI: Unique Identification Authority of India

According to Section 29 of the Aadhaar Act, the biometric data collected by UIDAI can only be used for generating Aadhaar and for authenticating the identity of Aadhaar holders and cannot be used for criminal investigation. Section 33 of the Aadhaar Act pertains to the disclosure of information in certain cases. The Supreme Court has interpreted Section 33(1) and struck down Section 33(2). Section 33(1) allows the disclosure of information, including identity and authentication records, if ordered by a court not inferior to a district judge.

Aadhaar is the world’s largest biometric identification system. Data are collected by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), a statutory authority established in January 2009 by the government of India, under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, following the provisions of Aadhaar.

Data of all Aadhaar holders are maintained in the Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR) of UIDAI. The CIDR is a governmental body in India that stores and manages the country’s Aadhaar project data. CIDR is responsible for ensuring that the information contained on Aadhaar cards is unique to each individual and is kept up-to-date and relevant. UIDAI uses advanced security technologies to keep the data safe and continues updating them to address new security threats and challenges (UIDAI, 2019).