Biometric Data in Iraq

July 27, 2007 | | Comments Off on Biometric Data in Iraq

This week at my summer clerkship, I helped research and draft a letter (pdf) about the collection of biometric data from Iraqi citizens. The U.S. military is using mobile scanners to compile a database of information about hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. According to General Patreus, the purpose of collecting the data is to help identify insurgents.

However, this information could potentially be misused, and the consequences would be devastating. In a region where there is already deep religious and ethnic conflict, privacy concerns should be amplified. These are the lessons of Rwanda, South Africa, and Germany. If this data gets in the wrong hands, genocidal violence could follow.

Included in the letter, the following questions were sent to Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates (W&M alum):

We are writing to seek clarification about the U.S. military’s current data collection practices in Iraq. Specifically, what safeguards has the military set in place to prevent misuse of the information? Also, what is the plan for future use of the system? And, if the system is to be turned over to the Iraqi government at some future point, what safeguards will be put in place? Will the United States be responsible for any consequence that might flow from the misuse of this system? We believe these questions are urgent, and the lack of an adequate framework to protect this data could result in genocidal violence.

Stay tuned to EPIC’s biometric identifiers page for information, or Privacy International’s resources about national ID cards.

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