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back to article Fingerprint scanner can detect drugs in sweat

A prototype fingerprint scanner has been developed that can detect the presence of opiates, cannabis, or cocaine in the sweat on a user's fingertip. The device uses special cartridges to take a fingerprint, which are then processed using both chemical testing and a unique photo scanning system. This takes a high resolution image …

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Anonymous Coward

Violation of 5th Amendment priviliges

This product clearly violates US Constitutional provisions against Self Incrimination. Obviously, given the subject, I am an "Anonymous Coward" for 5th amendment reasons.

If this is used for entry into any building as a form of door lock, it will introduce a huge legal battle as the persons own sweat will make that person witness against themselves.

Companies that use this system will face all manner of lawsuits as in many cases, "drug testing" is supposed to be done under strict controls, many times including a distinct reason for the test such as accidents or other "Just Cause". Whose to say that the sweat from another person has not stayed on the fingerpint reader and becomes reactivated by the next innocent person? Where is the "due process of law"? Should there not be a big sign above the fingerprint reader stating that entry to this building may cause you to be busted or fired on the spot?

All the more reason to legalize marijuana and require specific quantitative tests that determine whether a person is "impaired" versus presence or absence of a drug. Right now the only testing is for presence or absence.

See 5th Amendment below:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

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Silver badge

Not quite.

Private businesses are not subject to the 5th Amendment (they're not part of the government) and are perfectly free to do drug screening as part of the application process. Indeed, many businesses prominently post on their "Help Wanted" signs that drug users (and you WILL be tested) are not welcome, since having a drug user on the payroll is usually a turn-off to customers and sometimes a legal risk to boot.

As for government positions, high-security jobs usually already have an exemption in place that allows them to use polygraphs. Drug screening would probably fall under the same exemption.

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@ Not quite

Quite. It has nothing to do with this idea of an exemption you posed.

A private business can't compel self incrimination testimony at all with legal penalty attached so there is no need to bind them to the 5th amendment. One needs no exemption from something inapplicable.

They are not "perfectly free to do drug screening", rather, they are entitled to make a request, make it a requirement of employment. Note the distinction. They are not free to do anything the other party does not agree to. Government can compel and attach risk while with the private business it is an AGREEMENT between the employment candidate and potential employer. There is an "opt out" in refusing to submit to the request from a private party or business.

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Silver badge

The 5th amendment does not exist in East Anglia

I'm sure the police in East Anglia will get a good laugh if you attempt to use that argument against this technology.

But please continue posting excerpts of US law concerning subjects where it is absolutely not relevant in any way, it's always so fun to read about when nobody cares.

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Holmes

Re: Violation of 5th Amendment priviliges

>>This product clearly violates US Constitutional provisions against Self Incrimination

The root of the privilege in American constitutional law lies in the use of intimidation and torture to extract confessions and testimony on the witness stand.

You can be compelled to appear in a line-up. To surrender physical samples obtained through safe and ordinary means:

hair, blood, urine, fingerprints and so on.

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T J
Big Brother

Yeah but the UK is doomed anyway

Why dont you all migrate? Why HAVENT you migrated yet??

Anyway - it is now imperative to defeat all biometric mechanisms before the end of 2012. This will of course happen.

Oh the poor little tech journalists, they can't get a single thing right now, how are they going to cope with a fan and a hypervelocity turd of these dimensions.....

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polygrahps work even less than these tests (to be exact, NOT AT ALL) polygrahps are nothing more than a tool for psychologic manipulation of a subject, there is NO scientific basis at all..... those drugstests only show prior use, but can't prove intoxicatoin....let's not cooperate with installing a fascist police state I'd like to say to the "inventor" of this tool

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Anonymous Coward

Only in the US.

Dont you guys use such stupid reasoning with breath tests for booze ?

Anyway good thing thi is in the UK

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Holmes

5th Amendment fail

The 5th Amendment does not apply to breath tests, blood tests, DNA tests or fingerprinting. All these already make a person "a witness against themselves", if you want to put it that way. Why should this particular test be any different to a whole bunch of very similar tests which have already been declared legal?

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@ 5th Amendment fail

You can refuse these tests in some situations but what makes it different is the tests mentioned have been established as scientifically valid and admissible in court rather than boffins suggesting something works "well enough" for some random purpose.

The other difference is that this could encourage intrusion into privacy more readily than a blood test, while a a breathalyzer is always unreasonable unless a person seems to be drunk at the time of the test.

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Anonymous Coward

Bastards!

Is there nothing they won't do to stop people enjoying what they want in the privacy of their own home.

AC because it wouldn't be prudent not to be.

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Anonymous Coward

@Bastards!

Absolutely. The filthy scum who invent these sorts of things are the lowest form of life on this planet, because they enable the destruction of human choice and freedom for their own gain and self-satisfaction. Even pedophiles, terrorists, dictators and con artists are better people than these self-righteous, evil, contemptible fucking freedom-hating pigs. I hope there is a karma because it should make these vile scumbags die horribly.

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Thumb Up

Can't upvote that post enough ;)

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Anonymous Coward

@Bastards et al

They breathalyse and take the piss (or blood) you as test for alcohol which is perfectly legal why should spliffed out drivers be allowed off scot free.

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Anonymous Coward

in the UK they tend not to get off scot free for drug driving it's pretty easy for the police to tell a drugged up person if they've stopped them.

Sadly recreational drug use is illegal (illogical in view of many rec drugs if alcohol and tobacco use is legal) I tend not to smoke draw any more, only at the odd party when somebody else has some and is offering it around (which is about 5 times in the past 2 years) but when I was a yuuf me and my lads smoked like chimneys, you only had a few choices, alcoholic, coke head, pot head, or woman beater (often reserved for alcoholics.) And having been brought up in an alcoholic house hold where my old man beat my mother and my mother could on occasion be found past out of the kitchen floor, I'm a big believer in the pros of E's and cannabis over Alcohol. Though alcohol is the only legal inhibitor I can get, so alcohol it is.

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@ @Bastards et al

No field drug test is necessary to detain or prevent impaired drivers from being "allowed off scot free". An officer does not have the burden of identifying with scientific precision what substances you are under the influence of, only whether your mental state meets field test standards deemed acceptable for operation of a motor vehicle, a discretionary decision whether you are acting recklessly. Positive identification of drug use is only required for the specific, secondary charge if that second activity is also illegal.

They don't usually just test "for alcohol", they test for a specific BAC % which is defined by law as a limit considered an excessive impairment. That constitutes a violation of law in addition to possible reckless or other motor vehicle operation, violations.

Certainly it is no less fair or right to hold users of other (both illegal and legal) drugs to the same standard, that they not be excessively impaired while operating a motor vehicle. The problem is that there is no definition in law as to a quantity (per blood or body mass?) considered to cause excessive impairment, that in most 1st world countries evidence that you have at some point in the past consumed drugs is not an offense that is prosecuted unless you are impaired at the time which caused the suspicion and subsequent testing.

Having metabolites of drugs in your sweat cannot determine like a breathalyser or blood test does, whether you are currently impaired by the drug to any particular extent if at all at that point in time.

The alcohol tests are testing for presence of alcohol, not the metabolites from it. A similar test for alcohol might be one where your blood test indicates you drank a few beers at some point between the administration of the test and a few weeks ago. Would you like to be cited for being drunk a couple days prior to being stopped and tested regardless of whether you were even driving a couple days ago?

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Anonymous Coward

As with all things...

... there are a lot of positive uses which could benefit everyone - but there are huge risks if abused.

[Apologies but AC like everyone else]

I don't think anyone disputes that this would be of huge benefit to doctors diagnosing/treating patients so let's focus on the testing for illegal substances;

In my opinion, If used sensibly and in moderation, the testing shouldn't be an undue burden. Usage should be restricted to a few, well-known situations which already enforce drug testing. eg Athletes at major events, those working with high security clearances for whom substance abuse itself might be sufficient to blackmail/compromise them.

Of course, the testing should be explained explicitly in advance and the process must be completely transparent.

The real problem comes when someone in government decides to increase arrests to hit a quota or grab a headline - perhaps they need to counter a claim they're soft on drug usage - and all of a sudden, anyone who steps out their front door (and even some who don't) will be subject to invasive searches on little or no grounds for suspicion. This machine makes it too easy to invade someone's privacy without a good reason.

How long before Terrorism is intimately asscoiated with drug smuggling so that anyone suspected of terrorism can be tested for marijuana? Terrorists wear blue. You're wearing blue...

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Anonymous Coward

Except...

The huge flaw, ready to be exploited in the first court case, is how do you prove the drugs came through with the sweat, and weren't already on the surface of the finger from handling a contaminated object?

Positive for cocaine? Handled a banknote.

Positive for cannabis? Picked up some butts of the path outside your house.

My services for the defence are available for a small charge.

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FAIL

@Except

Did you actually read the article? Including the bit about it detecting the extrusion from individual pores? Cleaning the victim's hands thorougly with something like alcohol wipes before activating the device should work nicely, and once they're incarcerated you can repeat the test at regular intervals...

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Silver badge

Read the article again.

They took that into consideration. The resolution of the scanner is high enough that it can pinpoint the sweat pores on your fingertip. This allows them to eliminate residuals by making sure the matches correspond to the pores. Furthermore, they're testing for the stuff that can ONLY appear in sweat. So they wouldn't be testing so much for cocaine as its metabolic byproduct, which escapes me ATM.

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Anonymous Coward

Apparently your charges are too low to justify your time actually reading the article, which is quite specific in explaining how the system differentiates between surface residue and sweat

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This post has been deleted by its author

WTF?

No opiates?

Why not just smack them round the head with a bat and then provide oxycodone headache pills?

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Anonymous Coward

Er! but that doesn't mean you have drugs up your bum, in your bag or in your groin!

Didn't they say a high percent of £5 or £10 notes actually had cocaine on them?

So I'd be worried about that or the next time I just happen to walked past a coffee shop in the Nederlands, or had handled Euros from such a shop!

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Thumb Up

Note the near *instantaneous* chemical results.

Want to know if your drink has been spiked at a club?

It *might* be capable of handling insulin reading (I think insulin is far too complex chemically to be read directly and I'm not sure it's sweated out) or sweat markers for managing diabetes.

but as others point out this has *serious* civil liberties implications. Would anyone care to speculate on the results if someone put these on the doors into the offices of say, an investment bank?

Thumbs up for the tech and its *potential*, not the civil liberties aspects.

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Anonymous Coward

AC @ 20:17

Does Dubai (as mentioned in the article) have a Fifth Amendment (as not mentioned in the article) - I know the UK (as mentioned in the article) doesn't?

If it doesn't what is the relevance of your comment?

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Anonymous Coward

Isn't codeine an opiate?

I would have thought it would be legal for students to take paracetamol and codeine, available over the counter in Tesco.

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Anonymous Coward

Codine

Its an alkaloid opiate. 3-methylmorphine.

Quite addictive and often recreational but perfectly legal in lot of jurisdictions (though this is changing worldwide).

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This post has been deleted by its author

I've been on opiates for nigh on 30 years, all courtesy of a long list of quacks of course, first dihydrocodeine and now tramadol (the latter I have a physical dependency on...my pain clinic consultant says "addicted is when you mug old grannies for your drugs, patients are 'physically dependent'" - I like my consultant. So what happens if I get scanned? I'm doing drugs quite legally with the full knowledge of my quack and the DVLA, but I'm sure Mr Plod won't give a shit at 3am on a cold night when my brakelight bulb has gone (and I have a digital camera on the seat next to me!).

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Bronze badge

Thats always been an issue for certain drugs. The cops says you are impaired and you test positive for opiates your screwed. The test unalike BAC just says you have done the drug but not how much.

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Bronze badge

Codine & Poppy Seeds

Will both make you test posative for opiates, there has already been a case of someone being dismissed after testing posative for opiates ingested from poppy seeds.

All poppy seeds contain opium at some level, usually not enough to refine.

Codine is a problem anyway, it does make people sleepy, often on quite low doses, Neurophen Plus can do it, and you shouldn't drive if it does.

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Bronze badge

What self incrimination

The report clearly stated a desire from the developers to identify and eliminate the risk of false positives. By testing for metabolites rather then raw drugs and being able to tie such products to specific pores this risk is at least recognised and steps are taken to control its effect. A case might be argued in court over the methods of validation/processing but so far I have not seen much of a case against the development.

I am not sure where self incrimination comes in, you may not have to answer the "did you murder the victim" question, however, walking down the road drenched in blood and carrying your weapon of choice might well be seen as a probable cause to investigate.

No one forces anyone to leave a fingerprint along with their signs of past activities, just as no one forced anyone to indulge in illegal activities. There is a fully operational choice in play. Driving working or doing a range of other activities while drunk, drugged or otherwise impaired might be fun for those indulging, but are the consequences fun? The errors of bankers are now being paid for by the rest, how many of the errors resulted from the effects of drug fuelled misjudgements or stupidity?

There are other issues in play, withholding evidence of crimes is in its own right a crime, remaining silent can be taken for what it might appear to be.

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S2S
FAIL

The machine that finds everybody guilty !

Handled any money ?

Forensic scientists have said that around 80% of all British banknotes contain traces of drugs.

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Big Brother

metabolites....

My question is is it sensitive enough to tell the difference between the metabolites of heroine, morphine and codeine and the metabolites of poppy seeds? Also, will the programming of the device, as well as it's chemical markers and such be available for an independent expert to study to determine the likelihood of "false positives" in the event that this device is directly responsible for someone losing their jobs or being incarcerated.

While I know that many of you are in the UK and other EU countries and as such have no care for US laws and rights, some of our rights were specifically put in place because of the abuses your systems created. Aside from the 5th Amendment mentioned earlier, there is also the 6th Amendment which gives the accused the right to face their accuser in court. Why is this so important? Because in many US jurisdictions it has been argued that the accuser is the DEVICE, not the person using the device. Speeding tickets are often dismissed because of improper documentation on the device used to determine speed-thus negating the ability to face one's accuser in court. (And the ossifer saying "Because I said so" is usually looked down upon by Judges without evidence)

This device has great applications in medicine, but as a law enforcement tool I see many problems. Does it provide "Justified Cause" for a more thorough search? Or will it, on it's own, be enough to convict?. I don't know the UK laws other than BBCinA shows and Simon Pegg's cop spoof, but in the US having the metabolites in your system is not enough to get a possession conviction because the metabolites are not illegal, the base drug is.

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@Curtis

heroine, and codeine is metabolized into morphine in the liver.

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Anonymous Coward

What is it with people and the arguement about drugs vs alcohol and tabacco. If tabacco was released now it would be banned as dangerous etc, but that doesnt take away from the dangers of other drugs now does it.

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Pint

I was just about to go out for a smoke when I saw you comment and so had to stay to upvote it.

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Solution

Gloves. That is all.

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Anonymous Coward

Opiate tests tend to check for metabolites which are present in impurities of heroin but not pharmaceutical opiates.

So the "I just took some codeine" argument doesn't wash.

Specifically it's metabolites of acytylated thebaine which are looked for rather than morphine. Please correct me if I'm wrong but it's somewhere along these lines.

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Bronze badge

But since you can get DUI on script drugs why would they exclude those ? You presuming that they would only check for illegal drugs . If that was true why check for alcohol ?

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FAIL

@Nameless Faceless Computer User

Of course - because cops won't notice that you've got gloves on when you press your finger to the sensor. Fuckwit.

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