Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Iris Scans at Syrian Refugee Camps: A Brave New World?

Syrian refugees in Jordan get cash payments from the UN Refugee Agency through an eye scan

The Daily Star (Lebanon) reports:

Biometric scanning: Earlier this year, aid workers started adding all Syrian refugees arriving in Jordan to a biometric database upon registration. As well as improving the accuracy and efficiency of records and avoiding duplication, the biometric system has enabled cash payments to be issued through Hollywood-movie-style iris scans. It is the first time UNHCR has distributed cash this way.

In partnership with Cairo Amman Bank, refugees eligible for cash handouts from UNHCR can collect their money from over 100 locations in Jordan. Instead of using a debit card, they simply have their eye scanned at the ATM machine.

That allows aid agencies to map where refugees are and assess how long they have to travel to access the banking services. One of the biggest problems for refugees in Jordan in need of assistance was the cost of transport.

UNHCR plans to use biometric refugee registration at sites throughout the region. For example, it will start applying iris scan and fingerprinting during registration in Iraq early next year.
While I would acknowledge that this eye scanning process is likely highly efficient in dealing with refugees it is also a very troubling introduction of a new technology that we should all be deeply concerned about.  Imagine just for a moment that people across the US who get government assistance had to use this technology to get their monthly support.  In these days of mass protest against police abuse the government could use iris scan technology to quickly identify legions of protesters and just shut off their ability to get their assistance.  Talk about crowd control......

Or maybe some very wealthy person is part of the protests and the government could use the iris scan technology to shut off their access to their bank accounts because they had been "bad".  Who knows where this could all go?

Who would be next?  This whole thing needs much debate before it gets any bigger.  Are the desperate refugees no more than guinea pigs? What do you think?

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