In the wake of the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul and the ouster of the Afghan national government, alarming reports indicate that the insurgents could potentially access biometric data collected by the U.S. to track Afghans, including people who worked for U.S. and coalition forces.
Afghans who once supported the U.S. have been attempting to hide or destroy physical and digital evidence of their identities. Many Afghans fear that the identity documents and databases storing personally identifiable data could be transformed into death warrants in the hands of the Taliban.
This potential data breach underscores that data protection in zones of conflict, especially biometric data and databases that connect online activity to physical locations, can be a matter of life and death. My research and the work of journalists and privacy advocates who study biometric cybersurveillance anticipated these data privacy and security risks.