October-November, 2017

Fingermark Technology

Researchers have developed a technology for analyzing fingerprints that they say could be used in courts “in months.” The technology, Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Ionisation Mass Spectrometry (MALDI MS), is said to ascertain a person’s “lifestyle” through detection of items “of forensic interest” including traces of blood, drugs, drug metabolites, cleaning products, and condom lubricants. The significance in criminal law, the researchers say, would be to provide “insight into the criminal’s state of mind at the time of committing the offence” and “crucial background information” about the criminal’s activities prior to the crime.

The new detection techniques can work where common or contemporary forensic enhancement techniques have failed and can be of use distinguishing between drug-use and drug-trafficking, or handling, scenarios:

“Mapping such ‘story telling’ substances directly onto the identifying fingerprint ridges will potentially generate circumstantial, associative or even corroborative evidence on the suspect’s lifestyle and activities, allowing more informed criminal investigations and judicial debates. Importantly, detecting drug metabolites would indicate drug ‘abuse’ rather than ‘handling,’ which pertain to two very different forensic scenarios.”

Sources:  Aatif Sulleyman, “Fingerprint test that reveals a criminal’s lifestyle to be used in courts ‘in months,’” independent.co.uk, October 10, 2017:

G. Groeneveld, M. de Puit, S. Bleay, R. Bradshaw, and S. Francese, “Detection and mapping of illicit drugs and their metabolites in fingermarks by MALDI MS and compatibility with forensic techniques,” nature.com, June 29, 2015:

Tinder App Data Collection

A recent article in the Guardian disclosed the author’s surprise when she sent for, and received, her private information from the dating app Tinder. The author said she sent her first message through the app in December 2013, and, when she requested her personal data from Tinder in 2017, received 800 pages of data covering such things as her Facebook “likes,” the number of her Facebook friends, links to where her Instagram photos would have been (had she not deleted them), her education, information about the types of men she was interested in, and when and where each online conversation and match occurred. The author noted that the Tinder privacy policy clearly states that “you should not expect that your personal information, chats, or other communications will always remain secure,” but that people freely hand over the personal information.

Alessandro Acquisti, professor of information technology at Carnegie Mellon University, was quoted in the article as saying:

“What you are describing is called secondary implicit disclosed information … Tinder knows much more about you when studying your behaviour on the app. It knows how often you connect and at which times; the percentage of white men, black men, Asian men you have matched; which kinds of people are interested in you; which words you use the most; how much time people spend on your picture before swiping you; and so on. Personal data is the fuel of the economy. Consumers’ data is being traded and transacted for the purpose of advertising.”
Judith Duportail, “I asked Tinder for my data. It sent me 800 pages of my deepest, darkest secrets,” theguardian.com, September 26, 2017, amended October 5, 2017:

Mona Nandwani and Rishabh Kaushal, “Evaluating User Vulnerability to Privacy Disclosures over Online Dating Platforms,” springer.com, July 5, 2017:

by Neil Leithauser
Associate Editor