In a recent interview with Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun, a professor at the Digital Content and Media Sciences Research Division at the National Institute of Informatics has warned smartphone users of the perils of shooting selfie photos with their fingerprints exposed within the frame. Apparently, the professor going by the name of Isao Echizen, together with his team at the National Institute of Informatics, have told the newspaper that they have successfully obtained fingerprints from selfie photos captured at distances of up to three meters away.
Selfie photos have become increasingly popular along with the inclusion of more powerful front-facing cameras in smartphones, and this led to rather unusual products being manufactured, such as the selfie stick. Selfies are also quite popular in Asia, and particularly in Japan it appears that fans of selfie shots also tend to adopt the peace sign pose more often than usual. But according to professor Isao Echizen, as front-facing cameras become more powerful and proficient in recreating scenes in higher detail, the peace sign pose in selfie shots might also pose a threat to security, as he had apparently successfully obtained fingerprints from selfie photos in which subjects had their fingerprints exposed to the camera. According to the report cited by CNET, Isao Echizen and his team were able to obtain fingerprints from photos captured at distances of up to three meters. He also added that, although fingerprint recognition sensors are technically more secure than more conventional security methods such as passwords, having your fingerprint stolen is a bigger deal than having a password compromised, as passwords can always be changed, whereas fingerprints cannot.
According to the report, Isao Echizen and his team at the National Institute of Informatics also created a fingerprint anti-theft prevention technology, which apparently relies on a titanium-oxide based substance which can obscure fingerprints and can produce false images of fingerprints within a photo frame. Exactly how this so-called anti-theft prevention technology would work in practice is unclear, but at the end of the day, it's important to remind ourselves that no security system is perfect, and more often than not it's up to us – the users – to keep our data and identities secure.