Fingerprinting or dactyloscopy (derived from the Greek daktylos meaning ‘finger’ and skopein meaning ‘to examine’) is the oldest-known technique for identifying a person. It benefits from the fact that the papillary lines on hands and fingers are unique to each person and has been used by the police since the middle of the 19th century for solving crimes.
The automated fingerprint identification system, AFIS, has been in use in Switzerland since 1984. AFIS allows the authorities to search for and compare fingerprints and palm prints (including traces from the ball of the thumb and the side of the hand) that have been taken from a crime scene. A two- or ten-fingerprint comparison can be carried out within a few minutes, allowing the unequivocal identification of a person.
Identifying individuals is vital in fighting crime. fedpol currently carries out over 340,000 identification requests in AFIS ever year on behalf of national and international police forces, security services, and national and international migration authorities. You can find more information here: Fingerprints in figures
fedpol’s Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) will be renewed in 2026. As part of the AFIS2026 project, the database will be upgraded to enable not only fingerprint and palm print comparison but also facial image comparison. Further information about the project is available at: AFIS2026 project
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Last modification 11.05.2023