Taliban seizes military biometric devices, may use it to ID US allies in Afghanistan

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The Taliban seized US military biometric equipment which the group may use in identifying allies of the West in Afghanistan, New Scientist reported.

Some of this biometric equipment is now in the hands of the Taliban, one senior Afghan government official, who worked closely with the biometric gathering for four years, told New Scientist.


The equipment includes some specially made portable toolkits consisting of a laptop, digital camera, fingerprint scanner and an iris reader.

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The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan earlier this week after US forces pulled out of the country.

The extremist group launched a charm offensive in an effort to rehabilitate its hardline image, making big promises of change such as not retaliating against government employees and soldiers and to respect the rights of women.

However, local journalists and activists say the real picture on the ground is quite different, with concerning reports of house searches and arrests by the Taliban.

After years of a push to digitize databases in the country, and introduce digital identity cards and biometrics for voting, activists warn these technologies can be used to target and attack vulnerable groups.

“We understand that the Taliban is now likely to have access to various biometric databases and equipment in Afghanistan,” the Human Rights First group wrote on Twitter on Monday.

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

The US-based advocacy group quickly published a Farsi-language version of its guide on how to delete digital history - that it had produced last year for activists in Hong Kong - and also put together a manual on how to evade biometrics.

Tips to bypass facial recognition include looking down, wearing things to obscure facial features, or applying many layers of makeup, the guide said, although fingerprint and iris scans were difficult to bypass.

New Scientist added that the US first established a programme to collect the fingerprints, iris scans and facial images of Afghan national security forces after testing prototypes of the system in 2002. The programme’s initial goal was to keep criminals and Taliban insurgents from infiltrating the army and police force. To collect and store this data, the US Department of Defense launched its Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) in 2004.

With Reuters

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