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Repeatability and Reproducibility of Earprint Acquisition

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For all forensic disciplines dealing with identification—e.g., of glass, tool marks, fibers, faces, fingers, handwriting, speakers—in which manual (subjective, nonautomated) processes play a role, operator dependencies are relevant. With respect to earprint identification, in the period 2002–2005, the Forensic Ear Identification research project collected a database of 1229 donors, three prints per ear, and laid down a “best practice” for print acquisition. Repeatability and reproducibility aspects of the print acquisition are tested. The study suggests that different operators may acquire prints of differing quality, with equal error rates of the matching system ranging from 9% to 19%. Moreover, it turns out that “matching” earprints are more alike when taken in a consecutive row than when taken on separate occasions. This underlines the importance of (1) studying operator effects, (2) operator training, and (3) not gathering “matching” reference material at the same occasion.
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Keywords: (standard) operating procedure; biometrics; earprint identification; forensic science; inter-operator effects; validation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Digital Technology and Biometry, Netherlands Forensic Institute, PO Box 24044, 2490 AA, Den Haag, The Netherlands.

Publication date: March 1, 2008

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