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Fingerprint Test Tells Much More Than Identity

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the i-know-what-you-touched-last-summer dept.

Privacy 166

Mike sends in the story of a new fingerprint technology with interesting potential for both crime detection and rights violations; there are also intriguing possibilities in fighting cancer. "Using a variation of mass spectrometry called 'desorption electrospray ionization' or 'Desi,' a fingerprint can identify what the person has been touching — drugs, explosives, or poisons, for example. Writing in the Friday issue of the journal Science, R. Graham Cooks, a professor of chemistry at Purdue University, and his colleagues describe how the technique could find a wider application in crime investigations. As it becomes cheaper and more widely available, the Desi technology has potential ethical implications, Cooks said. Instead of drug tests, a company could surreptitiously check for illegal drug use of its employees by analyzing computer keyboards after the employees have gone home, for instance."

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166 comments

Signed? (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24527305)

What's with the "signed" tag on all of the recent stories?

Re:Signed? (4, Informative)

oahazmatt (868057) | more than 5 years ago | (#24527339)

What's with the "signed" tag on all of the recent stories?

Slashdot now signs all of their stories for the hearing impaired.

Re:Signed? (4, Funny)

Cornflake917 (515940) | more than 5 years ago | (#24527773)

That's awesome to see websites catering to people's disabilities. Now if they only had a device that output song lyrics in braille, blind people will be able to listen to songs for the first time!

Re:Signed? (1)

negRo_slim (636783) | more than 5 years ago | (#24527877)

blind people will be able to listen to songs for the first time!

Well I'm not sure 'listen' is the correct term here but I do understand what you are saying. Some form of tactile feedback for the music, which has been done before. If I remember correct, some of Howard Sterns more famous douchebagery included having a girl lay her speaker on the floor to be straddled while he spoke causing the vibrations to give her pleasure. So I would think a sound system with very high excursion [wikipedia.org] would be a much better solution in the here and now for those with disabilities that want to experience some music without waiting for enhancements to the source material.

Re:Signed? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24528259)

So this mute guy walks into a store. The clerk comes up to him and asks what he needs. The mute guy begins motioning as if he's brushing his teeth. The clerk says, "Ahh.. you want a toothbrush. Look in aisle five."

A couple minutes later a blind guy walks in. What does he do to tell the clerk that he needs sunglasses?

Re:Signed? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24528285)

I can't believe you are modded informative. Some of these moderators must fail at picking up subtle humor... Still, my question has yet to be answered with the real reasoning.

Re:Signed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24528325)

"Computer, computer" ...
"A keyboard? How quaint!" ...
"MIB freeze we know you're from the future!"

Re:Signed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24528947)

I don't mean to be dumb, but if this is true, how do you get at it?

Also... could someone tell me why a story needs signed when you can... uh read it?

Don't blame the Desis. (2, Funny)

alcmaeon (684971) | more than 5 years ago | (#24529181)

You can blame Desis for a lot (unhelpful telephone support people, the re-emergence of the musical, and intestinal gas all come to mind), but don't blame them for the erosion of privacy.

Privacy (5, Interesting)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#24527323)

Instead of drug tests, a company could surreptitiously check for illegal drug use of its employees by analyzing computer keyboards after the employees have gone home, for instance.

What would the company do after 75% of its keyboards test hot for dope? I don't think that any company(other than the military or any other organization which has to do with national security) is stupid enough to scare away much of their workforce.

Sure, most companies have pre-employment drug testing, but that's mainly about image -- If you're too fiendish to quit long enough for the drugs to leave your system or if you're not savvy enough to use a clean-test kit(I endorse Detoxify brand drinks ^_^) then you're undesireable for employment. Remember, in the U.S. Marijuana is still illegal and is a schedule I substance which officially has "a high potential for abuse" and "no accepted medical use" and is "lacking safety for use under medical supervision".

This type of test should only be used to solve crimes and diagnose illnesses -- not to invade privacy. Imagine your insurance rates going through the roof because the form you signed had traces of tobacco and who-knows-what-else. Surprise!

Re:Privacy (4, Funny)

g0bshiTe (596213) | more than 5 years ago | (#24527425)

Of course theres always SuperGlue.
A few dabs on your fingertips should hold back any substances while you bang away on the keyboard at work. Of course your employer may wonder why you have no fingerprints.

Re:Privacy (4, Funny)

snowraver1 (1052510) | more than 5 years ago | (#24527537)

Ahh the `ol dab of superglue every morning as you leave the car trick. I think by friday, my fingers would have a 1mm layer of hard glue. Not to mention that your oils get blocked too and you lose your grip.

Nah they can test all they want, find the dope and I'll be all like "OMGWTF what is marijuana? I have NEVER even seen it let alone touched it. Someone must of sabatoged my desk." Then everyday before work I would sprinkle a little crystal on the coffee pot handle.

Re:Privacy (5, Insightful)

negRo_slim (636783) | more than 5 years ago | (#24528023)

Then everyday before work I would sprinkle a little crystal on the coffee pot handle.

I think you over estimate the amount of drug needed to be found for any sort of conclusive judgment on the employee. The fact that most, if not all, keyboards would have some undesirable substance on 'em. And that is similar to the problem they have with current drug tests and the solution, there is a cut off limit which assumes some degree of inaccuracy in the test and prescribes a limit of substance found to ensure its above and beyond what could be considered reasonable when the amount of inaccuracy of any given test is considered.

Just to throw it out there I blame a weak American populace for rolling over and allowing the establishment of the drug testing industry. As the most obvious flaw is with marijuana as it can stay in your system for a month or more under the right circumstances. While even heavy users of very heavy drugs have a 3-4 day turn around before they are clean... AT MOST. That includes methamphetamine, cocaine, hydrocodone and alcohol.

Re:Privacy (1)

KGIII (973947) | more than 5 years ago | (#24528185)

Director Josef: You keep your work station so clean, Jerome.
Vincent: It's next to godliness. Isn't that what they say?
Director Josef: Godliness. I reviewed your flight plan. Not one error in a million keystrokes. Phenomenal. It's right that someone like you is taking us to Titan.
Vincent: Has the committee approved the mission? There's been talk of delay.
Director Josef: You shouldn't listen to talk. You leave in a week. You've got a substance test.

Re:Privacy (1)

networkconsultant (1224452) | more than 5 years ago | (#24528661)

Acetone will rid your oils of any evils (it's also surprisingly cool when used) then when no one is looking get a party bag mixture of explosives, drugs and what not and mix them together in a pulverized form and put them on the Executives coffee mug. No need for Crazy glue.

Drug testing, but that's mainly about image (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24527499)

Actually its mainly about federal laws imposing on subcontractors.

I suspect many companies would stop wasting their time if the feds would butt out.

Re:Privacy (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 5 years ago | (#24527525)

Do "most" places really do that in the US?

It's really unusual here in the UK. I could see it being slipped in under the radar without too many people making a fuss - it only affects druggies right! - but I've yet to take a test.

not that it would be positive, anyway.

Re:Privacy (2, Informative)

Rycross (836649) | more than 5 years ago | (#24527753)

The only drug tests I've had to undergo in the US were for financial institutions. Usually these places put a fair bit more scrutiny on new hires than normal. I can't really speak about how common it is in general.

Re:Privacy (1)

negRo_slim (636783) | more than 5 years ago | (#24528093)

The only drug tests I've had to undergo in the US were for financial institutions.

I would say 9 out of every 10 jobs, that pay 40k or less institute at least a drug test upon the conditional offer of employment. However my experience in the job markets are limited to the Pacific Northwest region of the United States.

Re:Privacy (1)

jc42 (318812) | more than 5 years ago | (#24528927)

I would say 9 out of every 10 jobs, that pay 40k or less institute at least a drug test upon the conditional offer of employment.

And roughly 0% of the jobs that pay over $100k require drug tests. If they did, where would employers find anyone that they could hire?

Re:Privacy (1)

flappinbooger (574405) | more than 5 years ago | (#24528999)

I've had drug tests for certain jobs, even professional level engineery types. Typically the larger companies.

Typically the smaller co's I've worked for have no drug testing policy.

One, I found out why they did not have a drug policy - it's because many of the people there used, and it wasn't a secret.

Re:Privacy (3, Interesting)

bughunter (10093) | more than 5 years ago | (#24529045)

I've worked for NASA and DoD contractors for 20+ years, and starting sometime in the late 1908's / early 1990's, it became a requirement for companies holding federal contracts to implement some sort of drug screening. Most of the employers I've encountered use urinalysis during the pre-employment physical. However some require random screening for part or all of their workforce.

When I was working for Hughes in 1992 a memo circulated announcing their new random screening policy. Immediately one of my cow orkers headed straight for the cafeteria and bought five lemon poppy seed muffins. I found him sitting in the dining area, pounding his muffins, and said "Dude, what's with the muffins?"

He said he just wanted to yield a positive on their testing and make it as expensive as possible for them. Especially if they terminated him.

The expression on my face said, "Riiiiight..."

Re:Privacy (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24527615)

If you have to use a "clean-test kit" then you have a problem.

Re:Privacy (3, Insightful)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#24527859)

As I implied above, many of us feel that we have to use clean-test kits to pass pre-employment drug screening because Marijuana is illegal and dosen't leave the body as readily as other drugs do. I really don't see how smoking a marijuana cigarette is much worse than a couple beers after work.

Perhaps I'm not fair to the harder drug users as I agree that somebody has a problem if they need a clean-test kid to rid themselves of coke, meth, or heroin before a drug test.

The use is exaggerated. Investors wanted? (2, Interesting)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 5 years ago | (#24527881)

Nah. It's science fraud, in my opinion. The technique seems real, but the use is exaggerated. Employees would just wash their hands in a solution of soap and chlorine bleach before they went to work. The soap and bleach tears the molecules of complex compounds apart.

Those who were especially careful would wear gloves when they handled an unusual substance.

That kind of exaggeration of the benefits of some new science is common now. Maybe Griffin Analytical Technologies [insideindi...siness.com] is looking for investors. Maybe it is an advertisement. Certainly any scientist knows about the effects of bleach.

My opinion: Too much P.R. to be completely honest.

Re:Privacy (3, Funny)

fuggo (806416) | more than 5 years ago | (#24528165)

What would the company do after 75% of its keyboards test hot for dope?

I guess they'd fire the stoner IT guy.

Even crimes solving is out-of-question. (1)

DrYak (748999) | more than 5 years ago | (#24528369)

This type of test should only be used to solve crimes and diagnose illnesses -- not to invade privacy. Imagine your insurance rates going through the roof because the form you signed had traces of tobacco and who-knows-what-else. Surprise!

Even for crime solving this technology isn't good.
Mass spectroscopy allows the detection a very impressive dynamic range of concentrations.
It can pick up incredibly tiny traces of some substance, which means it is very good at picking up contaminants too.

Thus a lot of false positive may happen : forensic detect presence of substance X in some fingerprints. Did the suspect actually use-/consume-/come in contact with- substance X ? Or is it a contaminant that the suspect got on the fingers after shaking hand, touching the same object as someone different who actually had it on the hands, etc. (The cocaine on US Money [snopes.com] comes as a nice example).
What make the DESI-MS situation different compared to drug screening test, is the expected detected concentration :
with a drug screening test, a big sample is used which is expected to contain a significant amount of the target substance, contaminant are either in much lower concentrations or aren't even detected to begin with.
but with the kind of test described here (getting a tiny sample using a fraction of the material deposited in a finger print) even with "true positives", the concentration is going to be very low because of the small sample.
So is the result of a given test small because of the small material used (true positive), or is it low because it was a contaminant (false positive) ?

Thus the only situation for which this kind of detection may be interesting is to determine if we *can exclude* or not that a person has come into contact with some (rare) substance. i.e.: the few situations where the absence of detection is an useful information.

In diagnostics the situation is different :
because it is a very controlled environment which follows strict procedures, you *can* (and actually *do already*) trust answers you get from high sensitivity MS machine.
Because the sample was supposedly handled following good practice to avoid contaminants, because the potential contaminants are limited and known and can be accounted for, and because the nature of contaminants may be completely different from the nature of the interesting bits (often what you look for are specific proteins and peptides in the blood stream, and the potential contaminants are either synthetic polymers from the tubes and instruments or entirely different proteins coming from the skin of the operator).

Disclaimer: after medicine, i'm doing a second degree in bioinformatics and proteomics - MS machines are my best friend.

Re:Privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24528549)

If this starts happening there will always be the occasional anarchistic type that will buy small amounts of amphetamines, opiates and marijuana oil and dissolve them in ethanol. Then with a small spray can you can do every doorhandle in the building, every public bannister and public phone in the city.

This renders the technology useless.

Re:Privacy (1)

AP31R0N (723649) | more than 5 years ago | (#24528875)

Does privacy protect criminal behavior? Your doctor is supposed to inform authorities if you are planning to commit a crime (iirc). i'm not being rhetorical, i don't know to what extent someone can hide crime behind privacy.

If a company or agency is doing sensitive work, something like this might be more effective than the piss test after the job interview/random screenings.

If i had a company and felt a need to weed out (so to speak) the junkies, i'd just be up front about it. "We're screening everyone, and constantly. If that's a problem for you, it was nice to meet you and goodbye. You can have your privacy and addiction, just not here."

Re:Privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24529281)

"What would the company do after 75% of its keyboards test hot for dope?" .... Why, they would assume they have a crackhead in IT, of course. :)

Unlikely (5, Insightful)

Xacid (560407) | more than 5 years ago | (#24527349)

I think it's highly unlikely that this would prove to be an effective measure of drug testing honestly. Think of the hands you shake, doors you touch, hand rails, etc etc. Need I continue?

But from the nerd standpoint I gotta say - this is a pretty damned cool trick.

Re:Unlikely (5, Informative)

ShibaInu (694434) | more than 5 years ago | (#24527483)

I just saw a blurb in the news about how US currency has the most cocaine out of all currency tested. Handle your average bill (in the US) and you'll have trace amounts of blow on your fingers for sure.

Re:Unlikely (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24528273)

They always say the same in every country, I've heard the very same story about Spanish currency (which are Euros used all around Europe, so what's the point), about Spanish lavatories, about the English Parliament lavatories...

Re:Unlikely (1)

Xacid (560407) | more than 5 years ago | (#24528941)

I'm actually less worried about the coke and more worried about the strippers' crotches these things may have touched. *shiver*

Re:Unlikely (4, Funny)

smbarbour (893880) | more than 5 years ago | (#24529193)

Well, Mr. Anderson. The evidence indicates that either you are a coke fiend, or you have recently handled money.

This presents an interesting dilemma for us, as we do not pay you enough to either afford blow or to have money to handle. We have come to the conclusion that you have obtained outside employment. You are no longer necessary. Please pack your things and leave.

Re:Unlikely (3, Interesting)

hiryuu (125210) | more than 5 years ago | (#24527489)

There's always the issue of cross-contamination just from handling the singles in your wallet, since paper money is apparently rife with traces of cocaine [yahoo.com].

Re:Unlikely (4, Funny)

Dancindan84 (1056246) | more than 5 years ago | (#24528715)

That explains the cocaine, but explaining the trace amounts of carnival midget and KY could prove more difficult.

Re:Unlikely (1)

The FNP (1177715) | more than 5 years ago | (#24528931)

No, you should always use nitrile gloves(latex might melt) and a whip when handling carnival midgets. Also, please be sure to train yours not to climb up people's legs, it's creepy, even the "leg dances" they can become surprisingly skilled at.

--The FNP

G A T T A C A (3, Insightful)

gblackwo (1087063) | more than 5 years ago | (#24527437)

It is a slippery slope.

Re:G A T T A C A (2, Informative)

Lord_Frederick (642312) | more than 5 years ago | (#24527863)

Gattaca was about discrimination based on genetics, which a person can't (yet) control. This is about detecting trace amounts of substances being moved around by your fingertips.

Re:G A T T A C A (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 5 years ago | (#24528277)

Yes, but one of the creepy parts of the movie was the omnipresent testing performed. Genetics is just one test. I was surprised that gattaca wasn't one of the tags for the story.

The more things change... (3, Funny)

corporal_clegg (547755) | more than 5 years ago | (#24527441)

So I guess we should be led to believe there really *is* scientific backing for the old "smell my finger", eh?

I hate Joe! (1)

macbeth66 (204889) | more than 5 years ago | (#24527469)

Lets sprinkle a little of this cocaine on Joe's keyboard tonight and tomorrow, he'll be gone!

Re:I hate Joe! (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 5 years ago | (#24527939)

Except Joe is in IT. I'm betting the Sprinkler was a manager.

Too bad he switched keyboards with the CEO.

Re:I hate Joe! (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#24528725)

Yeah, like they'd bother to test the CEO or any of the PHB bosses. Different rules apply to them, don't ya know?

Re:I hate Joe! (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 5 years ago | (#24528019)

Lets just put an ounce of it in his glove box, call crimestoppers, and nobody will see him for five to twenty years. I mean, if you really hate the guy...

Reasonable proof? (3, Insightful)

tick_and_bash (1256006) | more than 5 years ago | (#24527471)

Would this technology actually be able to prove that I am an active drug user, or would it just indicate that I have come into contact with the substance? (Money is mostly likely to have been exposed to drugs.) At the very least, I can see that it would suggest that some employees may need to learn to wash their hands after using the bathroom.

Re:Reasonable proof? (2, Insightful)

DeadManCoding (961283) | more than 5 years ago | (#24527681)

And that's my thought. It's well known that a significant portion of US currency has trace amounts of cocaine on it. While I loathe to link the site, it does provide some evidence: Cocaine Found on Money [foxnews.com]

So how does this analyzer determine who's an active drug user or just an innocent? Is cocaine on the keyboard enough evidence to require a drug test from an employee? Since the keyboard is company property, is it legal to scan it for trace amount of illegal drugs? Too many questions on this one...

Re:Reasonable proof? (1)

snowraver1 (1052510) | more than 5 years ago | (#24527805)

Since the keyboard is company property, is it legal to scan it for trace amount of illegal drugs?

That is a very interesting point. My current keyboard I bought myself, so it is not company property. Does that mean that they would not have the right to swab my keyboard?

Oh great, another technology for Hollywood (5, Funny)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 5 years ago | (#24527477)

On next week's episode of CSI: Miami

CSI Wolfe: "We were able to lift half a fingerprint from the edge of the pencil the killer used to stab the victim in the eye..."

Lt. Caine: "Did you do a DESI test?"

CSI Wolfe: Yes, it indicated that the killer just got done eating a ham sandwich at the sub shop across the street before driving over here in his blue Toyota Corolla"

Lt. Caine: "License plate number?"

CSI Wolfe: "There wasn't quite enough on the print to get a complete number, we are having the computer analyze it to fill in the blanks."

Lt. Caine: "I guess you could say, [fill in useless plot device here]"

Music: "YEEEEAAAAHHHH"

Re:Oh great, another technology for Hollywood (5, Funny)

Cus (700562) | more than 5 years ago | (#24527809)

Lt. Caine: "I guess you could say, {removes glasses} [fill in useless plot device here]"

Fixed that for you :)

Re:Oh great, another technology for Hollywood (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24529377)

Lt. Caine: "I guess you could say, {put on another pair of glasses on top of the one's he's already wearing} [fill in useless plot device here]"

Fixed :D

Re:Oh great, another technology for Hollywood (1)

greenguy (162630) | more than 5 years ago | (#24527907)

Sadly, the killer was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Who in their right mind would get in their car just to drive across the street?

Re:Oh great, another technology for Hollywood (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24528059)

500'000'000 Americans?

Re:Oh great, another technology for Hollywood (1)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 5 years ago | (#24528529)

Someone who was trying to build an insanity defense all along, of course. That they bothered to build this defense, proves they were thinking rationally!

Re:Oh great, another technology for Hollywood (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#24528747)

Who in their right mind would get in their car just to drive across the street?

Most Americans? ;)

Fingerprint can, so can your urine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24527541)

And it is easier to come by and analyze. Check
PopSci Article [popsci.com]
In general, there is no shortage of methods that can give you the same results easier or with more fun (good old torture for example).
The problem is that we probably should not do that anyway, it does not matter how you invade into other people's lives, it is bad. And pulling the terrorist theme here is no excuse. If yu can identify explosives through fingerprints, that means that you could have done that easier anyway.

"pico-analyzers" (2, Interesting)

peter303 (12292) | more than 5 years ago | (#24527577)

When you can routinely analyze for "parts per trillion" as these newer technology economically allow, you find nearly every chemical to some degree. I remember a scare a couple years ago when they found dioxin in nearly every agricultural product they looked at, but in parts per trillion. They would find ten thousand other poisons too if they look. Some legislation written without a significance-floor, so that puts some watchdogs intoa quandry.

They can tell... (1)

Tatisimo (1061320) | more than 5 years ago | (#24527601)

When I didn't wash my hands after going to the bathroom? When I've been picking my nose? That can't be good!!!

Nose picking implications (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24527643)

Instead of drug tests, a company could surreptitiously check for illegal drug use of its employees by analyzing computer keyboards after the employees have gone home, for instance.

The first thought that popped into my head after reading that was "Oh no, now my employers will know I pick my nose during break!".

Test material (1)

petehead (1041740) | more than 5 years ago | (#24527727)

How did the test lab get their hands on the coke? I'm just wondering because I have some, er, experiments to do.

Interesting. This is more intrusive??? (1)

Tangential (266113) | more than 5 years ago | (#24527757)

If you're doing drugs, you're doing drugs. How is testing your keyboard more intrusive than peeing in a bottle while someone watches you. Only caveat is who was using your keyboard..As long as they follow up suspicious findings with a real drug test, WTF?

It all needs to be vetted (2, Insightful)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 5 years ago | (#24527777)

Nice CSI work, but before this will be admitted in a court, it'll have to go through immense amounts of testing. Soon, they'll be able to follow us by the DNA in dead skin we shed as we travel.

See Mikey? Bubba was whizzin in the woods. His DNA is all over the place....

Re:It all needs to be vetted (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#24528783)

Nice CSI work, but before this will be admitted in a court, it'll have to go through immense amounts of testing.

You'd be surprised. Regular fingerprinting has actually not been tested that much. It's not a science, there's no agreement among the experts about how many key points you need to make a match. Once you determine that there's a match, they can't give you the probability that it's a false positive. They simply haven't done the statistical analysis. It's a very old technique, and really it predated modern scientific rigor. But it seems like the courts care more about tradition than rigor.

Re:It all needs to be vetted (1)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 5 years ago | (#24528975)

Beyond a "reasonable doubt" may always be a problem, but we agree that reliance on DNA (like strands exist beyond statistical probabilities now accepted) and fingerprints (partials are dubious in some cases although forgery is also less likely)....

Re:It all needs to be vetted (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#24529093)

At least with DNA you can get a number telling you there is a 1 in 10 billion chance that this is a false positive. They can't do that with fingerprints.

Historically, it's been too different to compare every known fingerprint to every other known fingerprint looking for random matches. But today we have huge databases of fingerprints on computer, and the computer power to compare them all. Why haven't they done the statistics? I think the law enforcement community is afraid to check their assumption that fingerprints are truly unique.

easy to get rid of a rival (1)

wardk (3037) | more than 5 years ago | (#24527895)

just get some illegal stuff and rub the rivals keyboard. this will PROVE they are guilty by all current standards.

just as easy as getting a neighbors house in Afghanistan by calling them terrorists, knowing they will spend the next ten years in a steel cage in cuba.

It can also tell.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24528001)

.. that the typist had been engaged in activities involving a risk of blindness, usually involving Victoria Secret catalogs...

Go on PHB, test my computer keyboard! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24528007)

Instead of drug tests, a company could surreptitiously check for illegal drug use of its employees by analyzing computer keyboards after the employees have gone home, for instance."

Good thing I'm an alcoholic!

Sure, that's the way to go about it (1)

Slightly Askew (638918) | more than 5 years ago | (#24528043)

Because people don't already drop copious amounts of biological waste at work, they need to scrape minute amounts off of a keyboard.

If the office was this concerned, they could just install Dr. Toilet and wait for the 1:00 PM rush.

well one thing is clear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24528195)

everything needs moar DESI!

We ALL can have coke on us (1)

SirLanse (625210) | more than 5 years ago | (#24528249)

Most U.S. paper money has some traces of Cocaine on it.
If you pulled out a dollar for a pepsi, you could be leaving coke on your keyboard.

http://www.snopes.com/business/money/cocaine.asp [snopes.com]

These tests don't prove that you are more of a druggie.
It proves how sensitive the tests are.
You may think of your finger prints as being small, buth they are still millions of molecules.

False Positives (4, Insightful)

lobiusmoop (305328) | more than 5 years ago | (#24528321)

This reminds me of the case of the Birmingham Six [wikipedia.org] here in the UK, where part of the evidence against them - the Griess test [wikipedia.org] - which was supposed to prove handling of nitrate-based explosives - was later overturned when it was discovered that simply having handled laminated playing cards could generate a false positive in the test.

Another way to look at it: (3, Insightful)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#24528527)

By touching a fingerprint reader, you're picking up traces of whatever the person(s) fingerprinted before you have touched.

Remember this simple fact if you're not a US citizen and travel to the States next time. Have you ever wondered what all those people who were fingerprinted before you touched ?

Hmmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24528531)

How long do you think it'll be before somebody contaminates a shipment of a popular hand soap with a harmless amount of "explosives residue"? ...

it's true! (0, Troll)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 5 years ago | (#24528719)

CmdrTaco's fingerprint analysis:
  • 30% Semen from CowboyNeal
  • 28% Feces from Hemos
  • 24% amyl nitrate
  • 18% Pepperoni/sausage pizza

Testing Positive For Drug Contact (2, Insightful)

nick_davison (217681) | more than 5 years ago | (#24528729)

Why, yes, I have touched US currency. That's grounds for termination now?

news.yahoo.com [yahoo.com]

This also comes within a week of Barry George being released after being wrongfully imprisoned for the murder of British TV presenter, Jill Dando. In his case [bbc.co.uk], a particle of gun powder was detected on him and this was used to argue he was clearly the murderer. Eight years of his life gone, the conviction was ruled unsafe because the defense weren't allowed to point out the entirely true fact: a single particle proves absolutely nothing and is well within normal contamination levels.

Shows like CSI are incredibly dangerous. They lead us to assume that just because we can detect something, it somehow proves guilt. A single particle of gun powder goes not prove you fired a specific murder weapon. Traces of drugs on your banknotes don't prove they were involved in drug dealing (though police forces throughout the U.S. deliberately abuse that false assumption to merit seizing the money). Traces of drugs on someone's fingertips prove nothing more than they came in contact with U.S. currency which has been found to have up to 1,300 micrograms of cocaine per bill.

doomed to fail (2, Insightful)

slashmojo (818930) | more than 5 years ago | (#24528895)

check for illegal drug use of its employees by analyzing computer keyboards after the employees have gone home

Speaking as one who used to work nights cleaning offices of a very large global IT consultant during my student days and being a comp sci student alone at night in an office full of fancy computers with the latest software, I was basically like a kid in a candy store.. my prints may well have found their way onto quite a few keyboards in that place.. ;)

Do you know what happens in your office in the dead of night?

Re:doomed to fail (1)

tsstahl (812393) | more than 5 years ago | (#24529323)

Do you know what happens in your office in the dead of night?

Yes. It is in the business plan. After a full day of politicking and obstructionist management, the work must somehow get done. A night crew on crack of college kids grease the machines of corporate behemoths the world over.

Use a Notebook Computer and Portable Mouse (1)

McFly69 (603543) | more than 5 years ago | (#24529151)

Why not just use a Notebook Computer and a portable mouse? When you go home, take it with you. nothing left behind.... no fuss. Most employeers now encourge to use notebook computer due to the fact they will get those "additional" hours from you when you work from home.

Uh... isn't there coke on most US currency? (1)

ivanmarsh (634711) | more than 5 years ago | (#24529203)

A test that can't tell where or when you came in contact with a substance shouldn't be grounds for a legal search much less anything else.

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