With the Taliban reportedly seizing biometric identification devices, Afghans are quick to erase their digital footprints while a human rights group has released instructions on how to do this.

After Afghanistan’s capital Kabul fell victim to the Taliban militant group earlier this week, many Afghans fear retaliation for their ties to the former Afghan government, foreign NGOs, etc. Identity databases and activity history on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, after several Reports.

While some Afghans have already taken steps to protect themselves from such retaliation, a human rights group also released a guide yesterday on how to bypass biometric identification and hide or delete their social media activity.

Although the Taliban promised not to retaliate against anyone, according to a. House-to-house searches have already started for people with longstanding ties to the US military or NGOs Wired Report. Previously, the militant group had Killed 12 passengers on a bus after using a fingerprint scanner that checked the entries against a database of Afghan security forces. It is therefore a matter of life and death for many when the Taliban get access to biometric or online data.

Digital sources of danger

Devices such as phones and laptops: Aside from door-to-door searches, there are concerns that the Taliban may intercept people’s phones and gain access to other digital devices by confiscating them.

Facebook: The Taliban previously used Facebook data to identify people with ties to the US military or NGOs.

Photos put online: According to Wired, USAID, the United States’ humanitarian arm, allegedly has sent an email last weekend asked its Afghan partners to fine-grain their social media accounts and websites to “remove photos and information that could make individuals or groups vulnerable”. USAID also advised partners still operating in Afghanistan to delete and delete all personal data of those they worked with on the ground if it fell into the wrong hands. Similar advice was also transmitted by the now-closed US embassy in Kabul, which emailed staff to destroy “sensitive material on the property,” including paper and electronic documents.

The biometric database of Afghanistan: Experts fear that with their takeover of the country, the Taliban will now have access to various biometric databases and devices that will allow them not only to track individuals, but also to expand their network of friends and family to expose ethnic groups.

According to Ramanjit Singh Chima, Asia Pacific Policy Director at Access Now, the Afghan government’s biometrics-based ID card called Tazkira and telecommunications data can provide “a wealth of data” to track and target people.

US military biometric devices: According to a report The Intercept gave the Taliban access to the US military’s biometric devices called HIIDE (Handheld Interagency Identity Detection Equipment). These devices, according to The Intercept, contain identifying biometric data, such as iris scans and fingerprints, as well as biographical information, and are used to access large centralized databases containing data from Afghans who helped the U.S. military.

How do Afghans react?

In one report, quoted Reuters Chima as saying that digital rights groups have already received a significant number of requests from civil society groups and activists to secure their digital presence. ON Wired The report also explains how an Afghan translator tries to protect his identity by clicking on pictures of documents linking him to American groups and authorities, sending them to “trusted contacts” and then deleting them from his phone while the Taliban go door to door. Searched door.

The Human Rights First Guide to Biometric Evasion

Yesterday, activists from the US-based advocacy group Human Rights First published translations of Pashto and Dari – two languages ​​predominant in Afghanistan – of their guides to erasure and protection Digital and biometric Data. The guide was first published during the 2019 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and describes how individuals can protect themselves from biometric identification, including through iris and fingerprint scanners and facial recognition systems.

Some of the protective measures listed in the guide are:

  • Looking away from facial recognition systems
  • Wear colored lenses
  • Concealment and modification of the most important structural facial features with make-up and hair
  • Keep fingertips dry or dirty

It also states that individuals can delete their social media profiles and remove their traces from search engines by:

  • Use third-party tools to delete posts
  • Send email to search engines or social networks to remove pages
  • Delete accounts completely

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