The fall of the Afghan national government has put the lives of tens of thousands of Afghans who worked for U.S. and coalition forces at risk, with reports of detentions and executions stoking fears. As the deadline for the U.S. withdrawal on Aug. 31 neared, the U.S. said it has evacuated at least 117,000 people, the vast majority Afghans.

Although the Taliban signed a deal with 98 countries to continue to allow people to leave the country, many Afghans remain in jeopardy, including those who won’t have access to travel documents or won’t risk passing through Taliban checkpoints. For those left behind, the worry is whether and how the Taliban will try to track them down. Of particular concern are reports that the Taliban have possession of U.S. military biometric devices.

Penn State legal scholar Margaret Hu breaks down how those devices work, what information the military was collecting and who is at risk. She also underscores the larger lessons for securing information that can be used to identify and track people – a matter of life and death in conflict zones.

Also today:

Eric Smalley

Science + Technology Editor

A U.S. Army soldier scans the irises of an Afghan civilian in 2012 as part of an effort by the military to collect biometric information from much of the Afghan population. Jose Cabezas/AFP via GettyImages

The Taliban reportedly have control of US biometric devices – a lesson in life-and-death consequences of data privacy

Margaret Hu, Penn State

The potential failure of the U.S. military to protect information that can identify Afghan citizens raises questions about whether and how biometric data should be collected in war zones.

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