CTED publishes Analytical Brief on the use of biometrics in counter-terrorism

On 10 December 2021, CTED published its latest Analytical BriefPDF, which explores key trends and challenges relating to the use of biometrics in counter-terrorism. Using as its starting point the adoption of Security Council resolution 2396 (2017) — which requires Member States to develop and implement systems to collect biometric data in order to identify terrorists responsibly and properly — the Brief provides unique insights derived from CTED’s dialogue with Member States on behalf of the Counter-Terrorism Committee and its engagement with UN partners and civil society.

CTED’s analysis indicates that, although 118 of the 193 United Nations Member States have made at least marginal progress in introducing biometrics for counter-terrorism purposes, the extent of biometrics use and expertise varies significantly. Although biometrics are widely used in nearly half of European Member States, they have only been marginally introduced across the Middle East, and more than half of African Member States have yet to introduce biometrics at all.

The Analytical Brief identifies other key trends, including the use of new and more sophisticated technologies to capture, collect, process, and analyse biometric data; an expansion in the range of physical and digital spaces in which States are validating biometric data; and an increase, in some States in the sharing of biometric data as part of counter-terrorism cooperation and information-sharing measures.

It also identifies multiple key challenges, including insufficient capacity in many Member States; insufficient legal and administrative frameworks; insufficient oversight, safeguards, and protection of privacy and data; and reinforcement of existing discrimination and inequalities. These multifaceted challenges illustrate the need for coordinated delivery of technical assistance and capacity-building for Member States (notably States of Africa, Central and South East Asia, and South America) that are struggling with the introduction and use of biometrics, as well as the need for States with expertise in the responsible use of biometrics to support such initiatives.

The Brief also recognizes that the private sector has a critical role to play in the development of biometric systems in a responsible, human rights-compliant manner, including cybersecurity measures to protect the data collected. Many related public-private partnerships have already been developed, and those partnerships should be supported and promoted at the national, regional, and international levels, recognizing the importance of ensuring that they respect human rights and promote a gender-sensitive approach.

The Analytical Brief concludes with a list of relevant international guidance and initiatives developed to help ensure that relevant stakeholders use biometric technology responsibly in the context of counter-terrorism.