Taking an extremely high resolution photo these days is so simple that a toddler can do it – literally. We’re packing more and more detail into photos than ever, and with that detail comes a new security risk: fingerprint theft. In Japan, flashing the victory sign is as common as a smile or a duck face is for us.
“Just by casually making a peace sign (or maybe selfies) in front of a camera, fingerprints can become widely available,” said NII researcher Isao Echizen in an interview with Japan’s Sankei Shimbun newspaper. Advanced technology isn’t necessary – any modern digital camera could potentially do this.
The news hook for this is that flashing the peace-sign in photos — as is common in Japan and elsewhere — could expose your fingerprints. This is true! It’s also true that cameras’ resolution, sensor-speed, low-light sensitivity and autofocus capabilities are on the rise, so this is eminently plausible (after all, a fingerprint sensor is just a camera that takes pictures of your fingerprints).
How thieves could get fingerprints from selfies
The technique described by Echizen uses no special software, but does require good lighting — so for the moment you can feel free to flash whatever signs you like when the light is low. As mobile cameras become more and more powerful, though, selfies will become a bigger security liability.
Echizen said his team has developed a thin titanium oxide film for fingertips that can prevent this sort of snooping. But that’s a couple years off, and wearing special films on our fingers just to stay anonymous seems more than a little dystopian.
Next time someone poses for a selfie with their fingers held up in a peace sign, maybe tell them to leave it at a smile. Or just avoid selfies altogether.