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Biometrics best practices recommended by UN Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate

Biometrics best practices recommended by UN Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate

The United Nations (UN) Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED) has published its latest Analytical Brief, which explores trends and challenges related to using biometrics in counter-terrorism. It finds that a renewed effort in capacity building and technical assistance is needed for member states as well as support from the private sector.

The documents aim to provide a starting point for UN Member State to adopt Security Council resolution 2396 (2017), which is legislation detailing the mandatory development and adoption of systems to collect biometric data in order to responsibly identify terrorists.

CTED’s Analytical Brief contains insights derived from conversations between the Counter-Terrorism Committee, Member States, and their civil society partners.

“In promoting implementation of these resolutions by Member States, CTED has identified effective practices, issues, gaps, and challenges in their use of biometrics for counter-terrorism purposes,” the report reads.

The document suggests that while 118 of the 193 UN Member States have taken some steps towards the introduction of biometrics for counter-terrorism purposes, the extent and expertise of these systems varies substantially from state to state.

From a geographical perspective, the UN Analytical Brief mentioned how almost half of European Member States have deployed such systems, with applications across the Middle East still marginal, and entirely lacking in more than half of African Member States.

In terms of specific trends, the report identified new technologies designed to capture, collect, process, and analyze biometric data, particularly amidst the pandemic.

These include facial recognition systems used in conjunction with CCTV video surveillance and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), and know-your-client (KYC) and customer due diligence (CDD) biometrics-powered solutions.

The report notes an increase in some states in the sharing of biometric data as part of counter-terrorism cooperation and information-sharing measures.

There are also several challenges hindering the prompt deployment of biometrics in counter-terrorism, according to the Analytical Brief.

Most of these originate from insufficient capacity, legal and administrative frameworks, as well as insufficient oversight, safeguards, and protection of privacy and data, and reinforcement of existing discrimination and inequalities.

To overcome these issues, CTED explained that a renewed coordinated delivery of technical assistance and capacity-building for the Member States is needed, together with a push from the private sector to ensure that biometrics solutions developed are respectful of privacy and other human rights.

“Such legal and regulatory frameworks – which must be developed prior to the implementation of biometric systems – are a critical pre-requisite for the effective and responsible use of biometrics at the national level,” the report reads.

“Failure to introduce safeguards that prevent the abuse or misuse of biometric technologies and data (including violations of human rights) can also negatively impact international cooperation, potentially undermining regional and international counter-terrorism efforts.”

The final section of the Analytical Brief includes a list of relevant international guidance and initiatives designed to support relevant stakeholders developing biometric technology to do so responsibly in the context of counter-terrorism.

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