Image credits: David Mirzoeff 2017

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency 

Iris Scanning

This promotional video illustrates how the UNHCR and the private company IrisGuard have collaborated to implement iris scanning – the unique identification of individuals through the iris patterns in their eyes – to help Syrian refugees in Jordan. According to UNHCR, about 85% of the refugees from the conflict in Syria seek asylum in Jordan. Upon entering the country, they are registered with iris scanning, which allows them to withdraw money at banks and ATMs without having to open an account, enabling them to access much-needed aid. It also helps agencies track those registered. According to IrisGuard, more than 2.3 million refugees in the region have been registered on their biometric database. IrisGuard is a private contractor that has three advisory board members: the Founder, Chairman and CEO of a global merchant bank; the former Head of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6); and the former Homeland Security Advisor to President George W. Bush. Whilst the kind of detailed information that IrisGuard collects can be used to provide aid, what kinds of questions do we need to ask to understand how this information may be used in the future for other purposes?