Between 1924 and today, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation has collected about 30 million sets of fingerprints. The archive consists mainly of inked impressions on paper cards. Facsimile scans of the impressions are distributed among law enforcement agencies, but the digitization quality is often low. Because a number of jurisdictions are experimenting with digital storage of the prints, incompatibilities between data formats have recently become a problem. This problem led to a demand in the criminal justice community for a digitization and a compression standard. In 1993, the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division developed standards for fingerprint digitization and compression in cooperation with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Los Alamos National Laboratory, commercial vendors, and criminal justice communities. Let's put the data storage problem in perspective. Fingerprint images are digitized at a resolution of 500 pixels per inch with 256 levels of gray-scale information per pixel. A single fingerprint is about 700,000 pixels and needs about 0.6 Mbytes to store. A pair of hands, then, requires about 6 Mbytes of storage. So digitizing the FBI's current archive would result in about 200 terabytes of data. (Notice that at today's prices of about $900 per Gbyte for hard-disk storage, the cost of storing these uncompressed images would be about 200 million dollars.) Obviously, data compression is important to bring these numbers down.