Research Accomplishments of Latanya Sweeney, Ph.D.


Medical Informatics
      Genomic identifiability
      Patient-centered management

Database Security

      Risk assessment server

      Face de-identification

      Contactless capture

Policy and Law
      Identifiability of de-identified data
      HIPAA assessments
      Privacy-preserving surveillance

Public Education
      Identity angel

Quantitative assessments

Biometrics: Contactless capture

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Work done with Vic Weedn MD JD (medical forensics) and my students, Ralph Gross 10 and Xiaoqian Jiang 11.

Problem Statement: Given current market trends in image resolution, capture speed, and cost of over the counter digital cameras, construct photographic ways to quickly capture fingerprints, palm prints and hand geometry without any physical contact with devices.

Description: The contributions of Dr. Sweeney and colleagues are new technologies and devices. The capture environment, which consists of constraints placed on lighting and background, may be structured (requiring insertion of hands into a box like device), semi-structured (controlling background and or lights without enclosing the hands), or unstructured (using naturally occurring locations with little or no concern to lighting or background). Their devices can also simultaneously capture the face, ear, and/or iris. This work offers significant promise to law-enforcement, homeland security, and others who want to capture as much print and biometric information as possible. It has implications to privacy, legal cases, and fingerprint matching which we intend to explore in future work. After all, imagine someone taking a picture of you as you wave in greeting and as a result they have a copy of your fingerprints.



Scientific Influence and Impact: While this work is currently underway, it has already ignited lots of interest from government funding agencies, including DOJ, DOD, and DHS, and has received lots of interest in early real-world trials from local jails (for booking) and from U.S. Border stations. Weedn, a chief medical examiner, also reports keen interest by the forensics community.

Other Achievements: 12

  • Patent application filed.

  • A paper of Dr. Sweeney and colleagues [28] on this project appeared in an elite conference IEEE Conference on Biometrics (BTAS acceptance rate 10%).

  • Information about this project appears in news articles profiling Dr. Sweeney's work and in articles specifically about new directions in fingerprint capture.

  • Funded by the DOJ. Two patent applications filed. One business venture launched.


10 Ralph Gross graduated with PhD and advanced to a technology start-up and a part-time faculty position at Carnegie Mellon University.

11 Xiaoqian Jiang graduated with PhD and advanced to postdoc at UCSD Medical School.

12 See quantitative assessments for more details.

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Fall 2009