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Afghanistan Biometric Data Given To US 108

Posted by samzenpus
from the lets-pull-up-your-information dept.
wisebabo writes "I just noticed that not only are all Afghans going to have their biometric data (fingerprints and iris scans) recorded but the government plans to share it with the U.S. From the article: 'Gathering the data does not stop at Afghanistan's borders, however, since the military shares all of the biometrics it collects with the United States Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security through interconnected databases.' Talk about 'know thine enemy' (or I guess, for now, friend). Does this foretell the near future when the U.S. govt. (and by extension, Chinese hackers) have the biometrics of almost everyone alive?"
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Afghanistan Biometric Data Given To US

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  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Monday November 21, 2011 @10:37AM (#38123722)

    There should be an investigation. With the DHS budget they should have this already.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    USA! USA! USA!

    A Victory for Freedom Abroad!

  • by upside (574799) on Monday November 21, 2011 @10:40AM (#38123752) Journal

    A reporter from The New York Times, an American of Norwegian rather than Afghan extraction, voluntarily submitted to a test screening with the B.A.T. system. After his fingerprints and iris scans were entered into the B.A.T.’s armored laptop, an unexpected “hit” popped up on the screen, along with the photograph of a heavily bearded Afghan.

    The “hit” identified the reporter as “Haji Daro Shar Mohammed,” who is on terrorist Watch List 4, with this note: “Deny Access, Do Not Hire, Subject Poses a Threat.”

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Biometric are about probabilities, and a poor fingerprint has a higher chance of a false match. Many Afghans have poor fingerprints because of manual labor (masonry work, etc.). Also, a miss is harder than a match, because you have to search every single record. They may have the thresholds set so low that the "best" match pops up, even if it is not a great match. That would explain this kind of false positive for the reporter. It sounds to me like the system worked - there was a secondary verification
      • by kanto (1851816) on Monday November 21, 2011 @11:19AM (#38124172)

        It sounds to me like the system worked - there was a secondary verification of using a photograph, which would have cleared the person who got the false positive.

        The problem is that I don't think this reporter of "American Norwegian" descent looked anything even remotely like the match suggested. The real deal is when using it to pick out natives and then having a system which does low odds "best guesses" sounds retarded; especially if it gives you helpful hints to treat people with extreme prejudice.

        • It was a fingerprint match, not a face match, although it is not clear from the article. The face is just there for secondary verification. In a false fingerprint match, you would expect the fingerprints to be similar, but not the faces.
          • by chihowa (366380) * on Monday November 21, 2011 @01:14PM (#38125638)

            The face is just there for secondary verification. In a false fingerprint match, you would expect the fingerprints to be similar, but not the faces.

            His point is that a face match is great for secondary verification if the people are of obviously different races or genders, but if an American soldier is comparing a heavily bearded Afghani man to to the picture of a different heavily bearded Afghani man it may not work so well.

            • Besides, people have been renditioned and tortured based on a phonetic name match alone.

              Hopefully if this system displays a picture it might cut down on misidentification ("Well, this short pudgy guy doesn't look anything like the tall terrorist with chiseled features we're looking for, maybe we have the wrong guy?").

          • by RockDoctor (15477)
            Meh. Fingerprint false matches have been proved - to the satisfaction of the courts - for several years now. The proof of concept case in Britain was a police worker who specialised in fingerprint collection being misidentified as the source of a fingerprint in a case that she had been working on. The presence of the alleged fingerprint of hers was taken as evidence that she'd violated procedures and contaminated a crime scene. When she denied this, she was (eventually) sacked for misconduct, took it to cou
      • by Sockatume (732728)

        The poor fingerprints are part of the system too.. There's no point building a great heuristic for a shitty database.

        • It's a trade-off. Do you reject all poor fingerprints so you can decrease your chance of a false match? If you do that, you are going to reduce the size of the database because a lot of people only have poor fingerprints. Using the face as a backup verification method is actually quite useful. The chance that two people are going to have similar fingerprints AND similar faces is quite low.
          • by gstoddart (321705)

            It's a trade-off. Do you reject all poor fingerprints so you can decrease your chance of a false match? If you do that, you are going to reduce the size of the database because a lot of people only have poor fingerprints.

            But then you really need to temper how much you actually use this tool ... saying there's a "30% chance someone is a known terrorist" (for example) means you have to use that as merely a broad level of screening.

            You simply can't go around treating this system if it's absolutely reliable if

            • The chance of false match on fingerprints is actually quite small, but we don't know how they are using the tool. In the US, a fingerprint match has to be verified independently by two certified fingerprint examiners before some action is taken. I don't know how they are using it in Afghanistan, but from what I have heard it *is* a screening tool. If they get a match, they just detain the person until they can figure out out what the deal is. I suspect the rate of false positives is not all that high, o
    • by durrr (1316311) on Monday November 21, 2011 @11:09AM (#38124078)
      Working as inteded.
      This way any agent of the US wanting to get rid of someone unwanted will just use his terrorist-check-rights and force you at gunpoint to have your fingers scanned. It then uses an "what's your arab-terrorist-alias generator" and generates a false positive, allowing said officer to shoot you directly as you pose a threat to the Free World(tm), said officer then goes through the standardized "blame a technical glitch" whitewash procedure.

      It's a brilliant fascist system. Of course we need to take it a step further and remove the do not fly list and whatever lists that numbers those to look out for, because hey, there's so many terrorists that it's hard to keep track. We should instead create a not-a-terrorist-list for the rich and their friends and implement prison wages for the rest of the population, not that there would be any particularly noticable difference
      • by martas (1439879)

        We should instead create a not-a-terrorist-list for the rich and their friends

        Makes sense; computer security is moving from a blacklist model to a whitelist one, so why not real-world security? Create a government certification process for people, much like the Apple review process for the App Store (TM, copyright all rights reserved, patent pending), and problem solved!

    • by Matheus (586080)

      FYI: I know that system and it relies on extremely low thresholds because of the fact the Afghan data is so terrible. SO, first of all, I can be 99.9% sure his iris scan had nothing to do with the "hit" (Iris is scary accurate) and also that if you look at the match score for fingerprint it was probably very low. Unlike what they show in the movies/TV biometric "identification" systems rarely return a single "hit"... they return a candidate list with attached scores. It is your responsibility to determin

    • by Demerara (256642)

      A reporter from The New York Times, an American of Norwegian rather than Afghan extraction, voluntarily submitted to a test screening with the B.A.T. system. After his fingerprints and iris scans were entered into the B.A.T.’s armored laptop, an unexpected “hit” popped up on the screen, along with the photograph of a heavily bearded Afghan.

      The “hit” identified the reporter as “Haji Daro Shar Mohammed,” who is on terrorist Watch List 4, with this note: “Deny Ac

  • by md65536 (670240) on Monday November 21, 2011 @10:46AM (#38123810)

    Friends? Does that mean that the US shares biometric data on all US citizens with Afghanistan? Aw how adorable!

    The US doesn't have friends. It has friendos.

    • Don't forget, the US paid for the system.
    • by Phrogman (80473) on Monday November 21, 2011 @12:17PM (#38124954) Homepage

      The US doesn't have "friends", it has "client states" and "potential enemies". When a state switches from one to the other depends on the current economic state in the US. Look at Iraq, at one point Saddam Hussein was a great friend of the US, then he threatened the US oil supply and all that was out the window :P

      • Right, all that oil coming from the Middle East, especially Iraq, is crucial to the US. Perhaps you should check your numbers and your understanding of IR theory before writing--lots of info out there on this. Suggest starting with "neo-con" and "Bush." Education is the key to freedom and will save you from idiot posts.

      • Look at Iraq, at one point Saddam Hussein was a great friend of the US, then he threatened the US oil supply and all that was out the window :P

        To roughly paraphrase a quote I heard on Slashdot:

        "Saddam once threatened to trade oil in Euros instead of US dollars. 6 months later, he was hiding in a hole in the ground while his country burned down around him."

      • by Kvasio (127200)

        exactly. Even UK and most of other NATO countries were kindly requested to submit the fingerprints of their citizens; of course without getting such a data on US citizens.

        Viva Brazil, who dared to have symmetry in treating US citizens just as US treats theirs

    • by treeves (963993)

      Is that like frenemies?

  • " All your base are belong to us " !

  • I hope so... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pharmboy (216950) on Monday November 21, 2011 @10:50AM (#38123852) Journal

    Does this foretell the near future when the U.S. govt. (and by extension, Chinese hackers) have the biometrics of almost everyone alive?"

    I hope so, this would be doubleplusgood. Otherwise, how else can be catch and punish Goldstein?

    • Ah, yes, the inevitable pile of 1984 analogies that comes up for every single fucking story that relates to privacy or government authority in any way. At least yours is a largely correct interpretation of the book, conveys the impression that you actually read it, and comes in response to a topic where the book has some applicability.

      Now we just need some sacharine, hyperbolic "first they came for..." parodies, then a few posters to angrily dismiss any voices of moderation on grounds that the very first
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Hey! You are right! People have complained about totalitarianism and population surveillance before!

        Ok guys it's over, let's stop caring for the safeguards of our freedom, it's not IN any more!

        • by Tim C (15259)
          If you actually care, do something constructive like speaking to your representatives. Moaning about it on here does nothing but waste time and energy that could be directed at trying to make a difference.
        • GP's point is not that complaints about totalitarianism are stupid. It's that 1984 (and other similar works) are often inappropriately brought up in the context, where the actual facts do not bear anything whatsoever in common with 1984.

          Basically, it's equivalent to writing "Oh, I know! It's just like Hitler!" in every story about every privacy violation, no matter how small.

        • I cared about totalitarianism and population surveillance before it was cool. *flips scarf*

      • by sunblazer (854413)
        and what about you?
  • by unity100 (970058) on Monday November 21, 2011 @10:55AM (#38123930) Homepage Journal
    I can bet my sweet ass that chinese and russian hackers will screw this kind of thing so hard that it will be pointless.
  • I am curious if the USA will share their biometric data if the Afgan government would ask for it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      The US will share whatever is negotiated with the Afghans. Countries share varying amounts of data all the time, depending upon what they negotiate. The Afghans are not sharing *all* of the data they have, and the system is in place because the Afghans want it. If they didn't want it, they could force the US to remove it.
  • >> (and by extension, Chinese hackers)

    Once the Chinese get a hold of the TSA's PLDB information (Penis Length Data Base) on every American male, they'll just give up the New Cold War out of pure embarrassment.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      ...or sympathy

  • I'm curious - people are worried about the government having their biometrics. What specifically are you concerned about? What is the nightmare scenario that bothers you if the USG has your fingerprints? In case you haven't noticed, you leave your fingerprints everywhere; if someone wanted your fingerprints, it would be pretty easy to obtain them without your consent. Similarly, someone can collect your face biometric by taking a picture of you at the mall, or from your driver's license. I don't think
    • I don't have a particular scenario in mind. But I am concerned that this type on information could be used to track or identify me if I were to ever find myself in the position of resisting the government. Law enforcement of various flavors have a history of spying on and disrupting legitimate political protest. Political, environmental, and civil rights activists have been spied on, harassed and even killed by law enforcement trying to preserve the status quo. And now that being labeled a Terrorist get

    • by izomiac (815208)
      Well, biometric identification is probabilistic and every system has false positives, especially when applied to a large population. If you're in the database then you may well be one of the false positives. Heck, even a true positive could be inaccurate, since you leave fingerprints and such everywhere... including future crime scenes. Plus, given how things seem to go, this system, if implemented, would supplant traditional methods and lead to: "Well, the computer says you did it, so that's good enough
    • My concern is that this type of technology could be used as tool of oppression by authoritarian governments who would use it to stratify a population into those friendly to the regime and those who are declared hostile. This type of technology and the resulting power it would yeild could be abused and it should be the electorate that sets the policy around its use. In this case the sharing of sensitive citizen data with a foreign country reflects poorly on the sovereignty of Afganistan.
    • My concern isn't random collection of information so much as directed use of randomly collected information. To give you an example, I leave my fingerprints everywhere. But, that doesn't mean that I'm in every database, because someone can certainly lift my prints off a table in a restaurant but they'd have a hard time tying that to my name unless they could come up with a valid reason to collect them in a controlled manner. Therefore, when a fingerprint is found at a crime scene and the police try to ma
  • For posting this story, I thought it got lost in the shuffle (I don't understand the "recent" ratings system at all).

    I just wanted to mention, India is also in the process of obtaining biometric data for all of its 1.2 Billion(!) citizens.

    Will the U.S. get access to that? With or without the Indian govt.'s permission? (and how long until hackers get ALL of the data?)

  • As all the cop shows prove, biometrics can just as easily rule you out as rule you in. An iris scan in an airport sounds a lot better to me than the crap the TSA uses these days, or a couple of years in Gitmo while they try to sort out their !@#$.

    The tech's innocent and benign. We ought to be watching what's being done with it.

  • by RobinEggs (1453925) on Monday November 21, 2011 @11:54AM (#38124650)
    I really pity the American intelligence community. They're expected to catch every single credible threat, not just to America but to any nation or political figure on the planet, without going so much as a micron past the ever-shifting 'too far' and 'possibly not far enough' marks at risk of being flat-out pilloried in venues far more hysterical and influential than this.

    Between the conservatives who claim we've still not gone far enough in fighting terror and the liberals who scream at any infinitesimal possibility of privacy violations but still want a potent intelligence apparatus - and the general public's simultaneous sympathy for both sides - it's impossible to win. The safe operating widths of the intelligence community (on some hypothetical number line ranging from "knows everything about everybody in real time" to "won't so much as question a guy carrying dynamite up the Capitol steps without first consulting the Human Rights Commission and the ACLU") are almost always measured in negative numbers, and large ones at that.

    I mean seriously. Many liberals and libertarians are demanding surveillance policies so dense and cautious that no intelligence organization could reasonably decide on manpower and human judgment alone whether to stop a possibly dangerous person from entering the country until well after he's either blown up a building or completed his perfectly innocuous two-week business trip, whichever comes later. And, as in the reaction to this story, God help them if they use computers, networking, and/or any persistent databases to speed up that decision!

    And if it's not the liberals and libertarians bitching about even the slightest possibility of privacy violations, it's the conservatives who say we might as well erect a thirty foot electrified fence around the entire nation and fire mortars at everyone who approaches wearing more than a see-through jockstrap and an implanted, US-made chip containing their passport, complete encrypted biometric profile, and HD-video of their entire life up to the moment they walked into view of the mortar teams.
    • I really pity the American intelligence community. They're expected to catch every single credible threat, not just to America but to any nation or political figure on the planet,

      Yes ... that's why there was such an outcry that the CIA, NSA, FBI and DHS didn't warn Norway about Anders Breivik and his doings.

      Same with the car bomb in Stockholm in late 2010.

      And don't get me started on how Spain crucified every single American ever so slightly connected with the CIA, NSA, FBI and DHS over their failure to sto

      • Nice hyperbole, but I didn't say that people from other countries expect the US intelligence community to save their asses, or even that Americans give a fuck about other countries (too many of them don't). I didn't specify at all who expected them to catch every threat, so your entire post is a self-indulgent rant.

        Since you asked (well, didn't ask really, but wasted six lines ranting about your pure conjecture on a tangential topic), I only meant that Americans expect US intelligence to catch credible th
    • by Phrogman (80473)

      If no one voiced concerns over privacy issues, complained about security forces overstepping the bounds that have been set in law etc, then we would have no privacy whatsoever. As it is the War on Privacy is going fairly well for most intelligence agencies I think. Sure, they occasionally get brought up short over an issue here or there, but there's lots of evidence to indicate that whenever possible law enforcement agencies, government agencies and of course corporations (who have in some cases made destro

  • This reminds me that we may be soon as welcome as the Soviets after WWII. Your papers, please.
    • You know, the Soviets were perfectly welcome in a lot of places on continents that weren't western Europe and in countries that didn't rhyme with Hysterica.

      I don't know enough history to even hazard a guess at whether Westerners or Soviets were more welcome, in general, worldwide. But you could take off the Westerners rose-colored glasses for a minute and realize that the Soviets weren't necessarily the crazed, universally despised whackjobs you see in Bond movies. Stalin, yes. The entire Soviet Union, p
  • Ignorance (Score:4, Insightful)

    by geekmux (1040042) on Monday November 21, 2011 @01:10PM (#38125594)

    "...Does this foretell the near future when the U.S. govt. (and by extension, Chinese hackers) have the biometrics of almost everyone alive?"

    Well, for starters, I find it hilarious that you think this doesn't go on already, sanctioned or not.

    And the "by extension" comment regarding hackers? C'mon now, you're talking to Slashdot, not CNN here. Hacking (or cracking) has been and always will be the fallacy of ANY online or offline electronic resource, no matter who owns it or what it contains. That's not exactly "by extension" but more like by inherent design, and it's certainly not limited to "Chinese hackers".

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