What is a Digital Fingerprint?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

A digital fingerprint is a security measure that is used to protect multimedia files and information. It is usually a coded string of binary digits that creates a unique identity for a file. The binary digits within the coded string are created by a mathematical algorithm. A digital fingerprint can also be used to create user IDs on networks, to track the activity of the users, and to block the user from accessing certain information or certain sites on the Internet.

Fingerprint readers can be used as a security device to control access to protected areas.
Fingerprint readers can be used as a security device to control access to protected areas.

One of the main reasons for digital fingerprints is to protect information and make sure that information and transmitted messages are not tampered with. In the current era, packets of information — especially information as it is transmitted by technological devices such as computers, cell phones, and PDAs — are crucial to daily life. From personal email accounts to government websites, the transmission of information in a digital mode is both part of every day life and important to the current way of life, especially in developed countries. As such, information must be protected, hence the use of the digital fingerprint.

Some cell phones are equipped with a fingerprint reader.
Some cell phones are equipped with a fingerprint reader.

Just like the actual fingerprint of a human being, a digital fingerprint cannot be recreated. If a file is tampered with, even just in terms of the alteration of a single character, the digital fingerprint will change. This is crucial as there are many files that rely on the exact specificity of every single character. When a digital fingerprint is tampered with, the owner or user of the file may be alerted so that the file can be used with caution or the original version of the file can be retrieved.

In addition to digital finger prints that are used to protect information and block users from accessing specific information, there are also digitized versions of analog fingerprints. In some highly secured areas, entry can only be gained through biometric information. Biometric information, such as a digitized fingerprint, can be used to ensure that only authorized people enter or have access to certain areas or information.

This kind of digital fingerprint is created by scanning and creating a digital identity for a person who has access to a certain place or set of information. Once that identity and access allowance has been created, the person must press his finger to a scanner on the occasion of accessing that information or place. As every analog fingerprint is unique, so is every digital fingerprint that is made using an analog fingerprint.

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for EasyTechJunkie, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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Discussion Comments


@Mor - Frankly, I don't think it's ever going to happen. Too many ways to crack the system with fingerprints. I can see people maybe using DNA one day in the future, but obviously not for a while.

It's more likely that we're going to start attaching digital fingerprints to ourselves and using those.

There are already people developing little chips that can be swallowed or put under the skin so that computers can sense when you're near and enter your passwords for you.

It seems a bit extreme for me, but I do know that there are chips in some phones now that can be swiped in order to pay for things, like a credit card.


I wonder how long it will be before a digital fingerprint reader is standard equipment for anyone who owns a store. They basically already ask for your fingerprints or a picture of your eyes when you go in and out of some countries, it seems like eventually everyone is going to be tied to their fingerprints and traced wherever they go.

It will all be linked to a central database where your net worth can be tracked.

I'm not even saying it's a bad thing, because it could be very useful to be able to go into a store and not need a card. You'd just need to press your fingerprints to a machine and it would subtract your money.


I think they use a form of very complex digital fingerprints to keep bitcoins as a safe currency, although safe might be a relative term in this case. You make them with what is essentially digital fingerprint creating software (although they call it "mining") and the resulting fingerprint code is so complex that it can't be replicated.

That's just my grasp of how it works though and I know it's a bit more complicated than that.

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