- German security researchers had a surprising find when they purchased a biometric capture device, commonly used by the U.S. military, for just $68 on eBay.
The distinctive shoe-box-shaped device, made to gather fingerprints and perform iris scans, was listed on eBay for the price of $149.95. German security researcher Matthias Marx offered a meager sum of only $68, and when it arrived at his home in Hamburg last August he found that not only did it contain what was promised in the listing but even more. This device had in store personal information such as names, nationalities, photographs, fingerprints, and iris scans of 2,632 individuals.
An analysis of the data curated in The New York Times review uncovered that many individuals listed had ties to terrorism and were sought after, while others seemed to have been involved with or stopped at U.S-run checkpoints. Furthermore, metadata on a SEEK II device revealed it was last used close to Kandahar, Afghanistan during the summer of 2012.
This device is a tangible reminder of the sophisticated biometric collection system that was constructed by the Pentagon following 9/11. Although the United States has put an end to its involvement in both Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the tools employed in these conflicts, as well as the data they contain, persist today beyond their original purpose.
It is unclear how this device went from the Asian battlefields to an online auction site. Nevertheless, its data offers substantial insights into individuals that includes photos and biometric information; if misused by malevolent entities, it could be utilized to target people who were previously unknown for their part in U.S. military operations.
Mr. Marx, due to the sensitive nature of the data, decided against posting it on his website or sharing it in an online format. However, he did feel comfortable allowing a Times reporter from Germany to view the information with him in person.
In a statement, the press secretary of the Defense Department, Brigadier General Patrick S. Ryder, said “Because we have not reviewed the information contained on the devices, the department is not able to confirm the authenticity of the alleged data or otherwise comment on it. The department requests that any devices thought to contain personally identifiable information be returned for further analysis.”