High-Tech Terrorism: The Taliban Could Use Biometric Data to Further Oppress the Afghani People

Over the last week, the world has watched as the Taliban has moved into Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, and reinstated a reign of terror that’s been a decade in the making.

For the people of Afghanistan, this means a return of the archaic treatment of women, public executions, violent retribution, and a perverted use of the Islamic religion to enforce extremist views on anyone who doesn’t see eye to eye.

Women in particular face a unique level of abuse as they are stripped of their rights in every basic sense. No longer will they be free to walk along the streets unchaperoned or with their faces uncovered. No longer will they have access to education or necessary medical procedures. No longer will they be able to enter the workplace or hold positions of power. No longer will they have a choice in their personal relationships or a say in how their children are raised.

Sad is an understatement. This is a travesty — an attack on human rights and women on a global level, and one that may be further exacerbated via the use of biometric technology.

Biometric databases can be used to track activities and relationships.

Since the introduction of biometric technology, the Afghani people have worked to build databases intended to make identification, voting, and other basic activities easier for the population. However, the greatest collection of biometric data was billed as a military project and largely compiled by members of the U.S. government.

According to a recent article by The Verge, the government Handheld Interagency Identity Detection Equipment (HIIDE) has fallen into the hands of the Taliban, giving them information on both military and civilian individuals who they can consider a risk.

This gives members of the Taliban another resource that can be used to identify and find those they believe to be threats to their control. Using these databases, they can access addresses, phone numbers, workplaces, relationships to members of the U.S. military, and additional personal information.

In an effort to offset the risks associated with biometric identification, human rights organizations like Human Rights First and Amnesty International quickly produced a Farsi translation of their guides on how to delete digital history for the Afghani people.

Guides like this have been provided in the past to help activists who risked extreme repercussions in Hong Kong, and focus on both helping people to minimize their digital footprint and to avoid future biometric detection.

Tips to avoid detection include:

· Wearing glasses and even prosthetics to obscure facial features

· Keeping the eyes lowered when nearing a potential biometric checkpoint

· Increased use of makeup

· Using long hair or head coverings to hide facial features

While these precautions may help, it’s still admittedly difficult to get around fingerprint or iris identification. Avoiding these types of checks altogether is best at this time.

How are these extremists using the biometric info they gather?

There has been some speculation as to whether the Taliban has the technology to access the information in the HIIDE. However, they’ve reportedly found ways to access similar biometric data in the past meaning that the danger is very real.

If members of the Taliban do gain access to public and military caches of biometric data, they could do anything from using it to identify U.S. allies to creating a class system based on the activities or associations of civilians.

According to chief technology officer at Human Rights First, Welton Chang: “With the data, it is much more difficult to hide, obfuscate your and your family’s identities, and the data can also be used to flesh out your contacts and network.”

What can you do about it?

In lieu of our normal Call to Action (blurb at the end of our articles), we at Cloaked would like to urge you to take a moment to check out the various charities and human rights groups that are currently providing aid to the people of Afghanistan. We’ve listed a few credible charities below:

Women for Women International

Women for Afghan Women

International Refugee Assistance Project

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