The National Institute of Informatics (NII) in Japan claims that taking and publishing photos of subjects who are flashing the popular two-fingered 'V' or peace sign could lead to identify theft. It warns that fingerprint recognition technology is now so advanced that even casual snapshots can be used to retrieve fingerprint information. The report also says the technology is widely available and easy to use.

According to the NII, the danger lies in a combination of widely available smartphones with high-resolution cameras and the rising popularity of posting images on social websites. In an experiment the researchers were able to copy fingerprints from photos that were captured 3 meters (9 feet) away from the subject. That said, the fingers in question have to be in focus and the scene has to be well illuminated as presumably noise reduction at higher ISOs would destroy the fine low-contrast fingerprint lines. We would also assume that the experiment only works with high-resolution out-of-camera images. Many social media websites reduce the size and increase compression of posted images which should, with current technology, make it pretty much impossible to extract any fingerprint information. 

However, if you frequently flash a peace sign in photos and are worried about the possibility of identity theft, the NII also has a solution to the problem: it has developed a transparent film that can be attached to your fingers. It contains titanium oxide and makes it impossible to scan your fingerprints from a photo but doesn’t interfere with identity verification. Unfortunately, the technology won't be ready for another two years. For now, think twice about showing your fingertips in a photograph.

(Photo: 'Comic Fiesta 2014' by Vernon Chan / Wikimedia Commons. Used under CC license)