Ever since the United States military pulled out from Afghanistan, everyone is talking about the geopolitical implications in the nearby regions. Afghan President fled the country and the Taliban has now taken over most parts of the country. However, the US pull-out left a few allies behind. According to The Intercept & Reuters, the US military had created a vast database of biometric data. Now that the US military is no longer present in Afghanistan, the Taliban could potentially use the biometric data to target allies left behind.
According to The Intercept, primarily the collection of biometric data was for military personnel only. However, Afghan civilians such as translators who worked for the U.S. embassy were also included in the database.
The military used The Handheld Interagency Identity Detection Equipment (HIIDE). It collects everything from iris scans to fingerprints. It includes biographical information as well. These devices are now reportedly in the Taliban’s possession.
Does the Taliban have the means to use the database?
This is the most important question everyone is asking. There is some conflicting information on this. According to a former Army Special operations official, “The Taliban doesn’t have the gear to use the data.”
However, this data might then fall to others like Pakistan’s secret agency. According to some local reports, in the past five years, the Taliban did use government biometric data. They used it to “target members of the security forces, and check their fingerprints against the database.”
The immediate risk
The possibility of widespread abuse of the collected data and protecting civilians’ digital identities means the issue is of paramount importance. As such, Human Rights Organisation ‘Human Rights First’ has published guides on biometric recognition and protecting digital identities, to help Afghani citizens to delete digital history. It is available in English, Farsi, and Pashto.