Starting with the US Special Forces more than two decades ago, continuing with Iraq and now Afghanistan, biometric samples have been collected which allow our military to pick out individuals in a crowd. Much the same technology has been used throughout the United States by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to identify criminals and terrorists who might attempt to cause havoc or harm at large sporting events or at busy street corners. Dozens of law-enforcement agencies from Massachusetts to Arizona are preparing to outfit their forces with hand-held facial-recognition scanners as soon as September this year. Read more here at the Wall Street Journal.
The United Kingdom recently added tens of thousands of biometric cameras throughout the city of London and its outskirts. These cameras have been used to identify criminals as they are practicing their art as pickpockets and stick-up artists. But they are also being used to track and monitor all residents of London as they move about the city.
There can be no complaints about the use of technology to help our troops identify insurgents and terrorists on the battlefields over-seas (they’ve built a database of some 1.5 million Afghans so far.) That database is accessible to troops out on patrol or manning checkpoints through handheld devices called the Biometric Automated Toolset, called BAT or BATS. The lightweight toolkits troops check Afghans’ biometrics against those of known detainees. A component called a Handheld Interagency Identity Detection System (HIIDE) performs the same biometric scans on people nabbed during field operations before they’re taken to detention centers, and feeds back into the Automated Biometric Information System.
The most concerning thing is probably not that the information is being collected against provisions in our bill of rights (as foreign citizens, our Constitution doesn’t apply to them). The problem is that this technology is being deployed now, on our streets.
Traffic cameras, cameras in our busy cities, fingerprints being taken whenever someone is stopped by police and other biometric information which is being stored could very well be used by a future police-state to hassle our citizens or worse.
As little as a photograph of someone’s eyes is enough to get someone arrested in Afghanistan as this biometric technology is being used today. What will it take here, in the good old USA?
- CSI bin Laden: Commandos Use Thumb, Eye Scans to Track Terrorists (wired.com)
- Israel: ‘The Only Democratic Police State in the Middle East’ (desertpeace.wordpress.com)
- How Biometrics Helped to Identify the Master Terrorist (scientificamerican.com)
- Biometric scanning for immigrants coming: ministry (cbc.ca)
- The FBI’s Next Generation Identification: Bigger and Faster but Much Worse for Privacy (eff.org)
- World’s Biggest Biometrics ID Scheme (bigthink.com)