Two Asian girls flashing a V sign

Researchers from Japan's National Institute of Informatics (NII) announced yesterday they have successfully extracted usable fingerprints from photos of exposed fingers taken up to three meters away.

The news is troublesome as biometrics authentification is becoming more and more prevalent, with fingerprints being a favorite method of securing applications and physical resources.

Speaking to Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun, Isao Echizen, researcher for NII's Digital Content and Media Sciences Research Division said that modern phone cameras are powerful enough to capture sufficient fingerprint details if users expose their fingers to the camera.

A determined attacker could use photos shared online to tie a person's face or identity to a set of fingerprints.

Last month, in December 2016, Twitter banned access to its service for an app called FindFace that used facial recognition software to tie photos of random people to their social media profiles on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social networks. The app had been abused in Russia where people were using it to unmask and harass local adult movie stars.

The NII announcement is worrisome for Japanese people because of local trends of flashing the two-fingers peace sign at cameras while taking a selfie. This innocent and very popular habit has led to millions of Japanese uploading selfies online in which they unwittingly exposed their fingerprints.

In May 2016, researchers from Mu'tah University in Jordan had devised a technique that measured the length of fingers and the distance between fingers when people flashed the two-finger peace sign to identify, track and potentially unmask ISIS terrorists.