Argentina: Using Biometrics as Mass Surveillance State Policy

Big Brother Watching 1

The Argentinean government plans to re-purpose this database in order to facilitate “easy access” to law enforcement by merging this data into a new, security-focused integrated system.

This raises the specter of mass surveillance, as Argentinean law enforcement will have access to mass repositories of citizen information and be able to leverage existing facial recognition and fingerprint matching technologies in order to identify any citizen anywhere.

In the waning days of 2011, Argentinean President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner issued an executive decree ordering the creation of the Federal System of Biometric Identification (SIBIOS), a new centralized, nation-wide biometric ID service that will allow law enforcement to “cross-reference” information with biometric and other data initially collected for the purpose of operating a general national ID registry.

Recently, however, the Argentinean Federal Police (Policia Federal Argentina PFA) was given a large database holding digital fingerprints collected from random Argentineans as part of the national ID and passport application process.

Since March 2011, this database has been fed by data collected through the RENAPER national ID application process.

According to President Fernandez de Kirchner, the SIBIOS will be fully “integrated” with existing ID card databases, which, aside from biometric identifiers, include an individuals’ digital image, civil status, blood type, and key background information collected since her birth and across the various life stages.

SIBIOS is designated for use by other federal security forces, including the National Directorate of Immigration, the Airport Security Police, and the National Gendarmerie, and is even available to Provincial enforcement entities, upon agreement with the National State.

Supporters of the SIBIOS program tout that it would give law enforcement easy, real-time access to individuals’ data, but whether any of the safeguards typically used to put checks on state surveillance will limit access remains an open question.

Her comments admit to a direct perversion of the existing national identification system, from one that has simply assigned an ID number to an individual, to one that outright violates personal data minimization principles through massive and unnecessary collection of sensitive personal information.

Given the long list of privacy concerns surrounding biometrics, and the plausibility of future security breaches, it is irrationally excessive to collect biometric data in a nation-wide ID scheme.

Categories: Politics, Technology

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