The United States created a biometric system to register as many Afghans as possible over 15 years ago, and it’s become a cause for concern now that the Taliban has taken over. According to NBC News, privacy advocates are worried [PDF] about the possibility of the Taliban using the database to identify and target individuals who worked with the US-backed Afghan government and organizations that champion women’s rights. The system’s database, which the US shared with the Afghan government, reportedly contains millions of fingerprints, iris scans and face photos collected throughout the years.
While the exact number of individuals in the database is unclear, an Air Force medic the publication talked to said he was instructed to scan the irises, take the fingerprints and photograph the face of every Afghan who came through the hospital doors while he was in service. Other military officers had to the same thing. The goal was to have an extensive database of fingerprints that authorities can search in the event a bomb is found.
That said, since the US military scanned anyone and everyone, one of the vets who helped collect Afghans’ biometrics said it could be difficult to use the database to find specific individuals to target. Someone being in the database doesn’t necessarily mean they worked with the US government or women’s rights organizations. Department of Defense spokesperson Eric Pahon also denied that Afghans’ biometric data is at risk. He told NBC News that “The U.S. has taken prudent actions to ensure that sensitive data does not fall into the Taliban’s hands. This data is not at risk of misuse,”
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