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Protecting rights and regions using border biometrics

Protecting rights and regions using border biometrics

Making international borders more secure can be done while protecting the human rights of people crossing those borders, according to a panel of experts on border security issues.

The speakers never name-checked biometric surveillance or identity verification and authentication, but the topics were always within reach.

The group was comprised of subject matter experts who, most of them, had backgrounds that likely would result in unique insights into the intersection of protecting regions and rights.

Increasingly, border management means ID verification through facial and fingerprint biometrics systems as well as electronic surveillance at and between crossings.

The panel multiple times acknowledged the imperative to stop crossings by terrorists and their sympathizers, people involved in major crime and those not complying with immigration laws.

Yet, managing borders must also mean thorough and careful safeguarding of human rights, agreed the panel convened by Border Security Report and the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism Border Security & Management.

International treaties require respectful policies, naturally, but speakers made the case that proportional and accurate systems deployments can better assist agents without an overreliance that leads to complacency or rights abuses.

Mona Koehler-Schindler is an associate human rights officer on anti-terrorism issues with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and worked for NATO in Afghanistan and Belgium for three years.

As did her fellow panelists, Koehler-Schindler, recommended nations rigorously train border personnel in human rights and the technologies that intersect with those rights.

Poorly understood technology used to spot and identify people has led to system deployments that are out of proportion to actual needs, she said. It can lead to needless violations of privacy and transit rejections based on erroneous records, misidentifications and system bias.

Kristiina Lilleorg, senior immigration and visa specialist for the International Organization for Migration, spoke about the need for an individualized approach to migration — something advanced biometric systems are supposed to deliver.

It is “cost-heavy,” Lilleorg admitted, but the expense results in security and downstream social benefits to nations. It is likely that Lilleorg was referring more directly to a face-to-face approach to managing immigration flow, but the point is valid when discussing the technology.

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