University releases study into using biometrics to catch terrorists
23 July 2020 11:46 GMT

The University of Minnesota Law School’s Human Rights Center has announced the publication of a new report: The Use of Biometric Data to Identify Terrorists: Best Practice or Risky Business?

The report has been prepared under the aegis of the Mandate of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism and was authored by Dr. Krisztina Huszti-Orban with Professor Fionnuala Ní Aoláin. This work was made possible through support from the Knowledge Platform on Security and Rule of Law’s Knowledge Management Fund.

The report explores the human rights risks involved in the deployment of biometrics emphasising that

"in the absence of robust rights protections which are institutionally embedded to oversee collection, storage, and use of such evidence, relevant practices are likely to infringe international human rights law standards".

It offers an insight to the deployment of biometrics in the counter-terrorism context and beyond after the adoption of Security Council Resolution 2396

"The distinct value and practical benefits of the use of biometric data is increasingly acknowledged including in the context of addressing trans-border challenges in law enforcement and intelligence gathering, border management, evidentiary and forensic use," said the university. 

This trend is also reflected in the regulatory efforts by the United Nations Security Council. Specifically, resolution 2396 requires that States “develop and implement systems to collect biometric data” in order to “responsibly and properly identify terrorists, including foreign terrorist fighters.”

Despite the rapid advance of biometric technology and its widespread usage, human rights analysis and guidance on its use remains limited. The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Professor Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, has repeatedly highlighted this shortcoming and has stressed the need for granular rule of law and human rights-based analysis in relation to the extensive obligations imposed by the Security Council, with particular emphasis on requirements relating to biometric systems and data.

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