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US-collected biometric equipment and data has fallen into the hands of the Taliban

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As it so often happens with invasive data collection; it eventually falls into the wrong hands.

Officials have told The Intercept that the Taliban has seized biometric devices that could help identify Afghans who assisted coalition forces.

The US technology and databases for facial recognition and fingerprints have been taken by the Taliban, which is just one disturbing development we can attribute to the unfolding saga in Afghanistan. The coalition collaborators were reportedly left behind by US forces, posing a threat of retaliatory attacks.

In the wake of the Taliban’s rise to power in Afghanistan, it seized millions, if not billions, of dollars in US military equipment.

Three former US military personnel and an official of Joint Special Operations Command said the devices, called HIIDE for Handheld Interagency Identity Detection Equipment, were seized last week by the Taliban. Security forces expressed concern about how the sensitive data contained in them might be exploited.

In addition to imprinting biometric information, HID devices give access to big centralized databases and can store identifiable biometric data, such as iris scans and fingerprints.

For storing and gathering information on biometric identification, the US Department of Defense developed the Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) in 2004.

The goal was for as many people as possible to be scanned for fingerprints, iris data, and genetic biometric information by coalition and Afghan troops from several biometric task forces, and this data, numbering in the millions, are now in the hands of terrorists.

This week, the US-based Human Rights First wrote on the issue.

“We understand that the Taliban is now likely to have access to various biometric databases and equipment in Afghanistan.

“This technology is likely to include access to a database with fingerprints and iris scans, and include facial recognition technology.”

Taliban forces will have access to biometric data and technology in order to exact revenge on those who served for the coalition-backed authority.

“The Taliban have a demonstrated interest in hunting, killing and scaring those who have worked with the government and global community,” says Sean McDonald, who has worked in humanitarian data governance for the past decade.

Moreover, a person who had his biometrics taken when he worked as an interpreter for the US military claims the Taliban is listening to phone calls and going door-to-door seeking out former US military personnel.

“We really don’t know what they have on us,” he said.

A second unidentified officer claimed that the US might use data collected in order to help evacuate certain Afghans out of the country since safety is a priority, citing the fact that biometric data has been collected extensively and used in identity cards for US personnel.

In spite of this, the US Department of Defense has not yet responded to a request for comment.

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