Interpol urges countries to collect biometric data from extremist fighters

November 23, 2016 - 

Interpol is urging countries throughout the world to collect biometric data from Islamic State fighters and other extremist groups to help law enforcement locate them, particularly when these individuals return home, according to a report by the Associated Press.

Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock said that Interpol only has biometric data for approximately 10 percent of the 9,000 “foreign terrorist fighters” in its database.

He also said the international police organization is working with other countries to develop biometric technology to identify extremist fighters and criminals.

There are somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 “foreign terrorist fighters” from nearly all regions of the world, with approximately 15,000 of those individuals originating from over 100 countries residing mainly in Syria and Iraq, Stock said.

Of the 9,000 names in the Interpol database, about 6,000 of the extremist fighters are not on an international register where they could be located.

He called this discrepancy a “serious gap,” but added that the database has grown rapidly from the 12 files it had at the time of its 2013 launch. He said he is optimistic that the database will continue to add more names and biometric data.

Stock recently visited the United Nations’ headquarters in Lyon, France to speak to the General Assembly, which put into action a resolution expanding Interpol-U.N. relations.

“The threat level with regard to international terrorism is unprecedented,” Stock said. “We are fighting a terrorist network or an organized crime network with a law enforcement network.”

Stock said the task is “not easy” given the different legal issues varying from country to country, including sharing information, and the challenges in delivering the relevant data to police, border guards and other law enforcement.

The growing use of encrypted websites by extremist groups is also creating “a huge challenge to law enforcement” authorities trying to track fighters and potential “terrorists,” he said.

“We are developing our tools, but it creates a challenge,” Stock said, adding that Interpol is working with industry on new tools “to make sure that there’s no safe haven for terrorists or criminals.”

Facial recognition partnership

Safran Identity & Security, a global leader in identity and security solutions, today announced that it has been named the exclusive supplier of facial recognition solutions for INTERPOL.

Interpol originally established a partnership with Safran in 2012 in which the company began providing Interpol with an automated facial recognition system for matching wanted or missing persons.

“INTERPOL’s choice is a clear vote of confidence in the performance of our facial recognition system in terms of accuracy and ergonomics,” said Samuel Fringant, Executive Vice President, Security Division at Safran Identity & Security. “Its ease of use increases experts’ productivity: a key point for our customers. As a well-established leader in the field of fingerprints, we are now consolidating our position in the facial recognition sphere, which is a real strategic growth area for us.”

The system rolled out by Safran Identity & Security is now available to INTERPOL’s 190 member countries.

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.