Over two decades, the United States and its allies spent hundreds of millions of dollars building databases for the Afghan people. The database hoped to Promote law and order and government accountability and modernize a war-ravaged land. But with the Taliban seizing power, most of that digital apparatus, including biometrics, have fallen into the hands of the Taliban.
With few data-protection safeguards, the database risks becoming a high-tech tool for a Talibani surveillance state. The Taliban can also use the database and the biometrics to verify people’s identities and use it for social control and punish opponents.
Reports suggest that Taliban is already using the database to identify and intimidate Afghans who worked with the U.S. forces. People are getting ominous and threatening phone calls, texts and WhatsApp messages, warning them of dire consequences.
A U.S. contractor in Kabul who developed a database used to manage army and police payrolls got phone calls summoning him to the Defense Ministry. The contractor, his co-workers and many like them who received threatening calls and messages have gone into hiding.
The Afghan Personnel and Pay System has data on more than 700,000 security forces members dating back 40 years. The data includes birth dates, phone numbers, details of parents, fingerprints, iris and face scans. Though only authorized users can access the database, the Taliban will try to hack it with the help of Pakistan’s ISI.
U.S. analysts expect Chinese, Russian and Iranian intelligence also to help the Taliban hack the database.