The Taliban are said to have seized US military biometric devices used to scan irises, fingers and faces, which can help them identify Afghans who have supported coalition forces.
According to The Intercept, the devices, known as HIIDE, or Handheld Interagency Identification Detection Devices, were seized during the Taliban attack.
The Intercept spoke to current and former US military officials, all of whom are concerned that sensitive data could be used by the Taliban.
These devices are connected to the Biometric Automated Toolkit (BAT), the identification processing software used by US troops to scan for threats.
HIIDE can generate biometric tracking reports and alert users if a person being checked is on a watch list, Signal Magazine reported.
If the Taliban do not have access to the data, it is possible that the Joint Intelligence Service (ISS), Pakistan’s spy agency with a history of working closely with the Taliban, could provide them with the tools to do just that, a veteran of the US Army Special Forces told the Intercept.
Many Afghans who have not been evacuated appear to be trying to erase their past online activities.
The boys and men have “crazily deleted the messages they’ve sent, the music they’ve listened to and the pictures they’ve taken on their phones,” BBC correspondent Sana Safi wrote on Twitter on Sunday.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned of “chilling” dangers to human rights and violations against women and girls in Afghanistan, while Amnesty International on Monday said thousands of Afghans – including academics, journalists and activists – were “at serious risk of Taliban retaliation”.
Although an unnamed woman who worked for the Afghan government burned all documents related to her former job, she was still worried that the biometric data she provided when she was hired would be stolen. The Taliban used it to find her, The Wall Street Journal reported.
“We understand that the Taliban now potentially have access to various databases and biometric devices in Afghanistan,” the group Human Rights First wrote on Twitter on Monday.
The team adds: “This technology is likely to include access to databases with fingerprints and iris scanning, as well as to include facial recognition technology.”
The team then quickly issued instructions in Farsi on how to delete digital history, as well as another guide on how to circumvent biometrics.
The guide says tips for bypassing facial recognition include looking down, dressing to obscure facial features, or applying layers of makeup. However, for fingerprint and iris scanning, it is difficult to avoid.
Welton Chang, chief technology officer of Human Rights First, said: “With this data, it is much harder to hide and obscure the identity of you and your family, and the data can also be used. to identify your contacts and carrier.”
On Monday, just hours after the militants overran the capital, Kabul, there were fears that this had already happened.
A Twitter user named Mustafa said “Taliban started house-to-house searches” of government officials, former members of the security forces and people working for foreign non-profits, adding that journalists’ homes were also searched.
One Kabul resident said she had heard about door-to-door checks and that Islamist militants were using a “biometric machine”.
In a statement, the Taliban said it “assured all its citizens that, as always, it will protect their lives, property and honor, and create an environment of peace.” peace and security for our beloved country”.