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Contingency Planning in the Digital Age: Biometric Data of Afghans Must be Reconsidered

– Prio

The Taliban’s seizing of biometric tools shows the risks of biometric databases

The writers of this article outline how in the past, Afghan refugees had their biometrics registered in the UNHCR’s database, and how measures taken to preserve privacy had the unintended consequence of creating false matches. Now, as the Taliban have taken control of Kabul, biometric devices have been seized, causing much concern.

“What will the Taliban do with this data and with these devices? Will they for example use it to check whether an individual has collaborated with coalition forces?”

The authors call for an urgent risk assessment of biometric data collection, and for those involved in this field to modify their approach to storing people’s data, citing that the collection of anonymized data of Afghan citizens was wrongheaded from the start - as it meant some people could not receive aid, and now could have even more dire consequences.

Having stored this data for almost two decades, and now concluding that this effort was potentially not just useless, but more seriously risked producing additional insecurity – e.g. to Afghans wrongfully denied humanitarian assistance – should signpost the need to reconsider the taken-for-granted assumption that the more biometrics are collected from refugees the better

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