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5 Jul 2020

Taylor and Francis Online

Re-assembling the surveillable refugee body in the era of data-craving

This article traces the travel of biometric data of Syrian refugees in Jordan through a hastily evolving political economy characterized by a pervasive craving for the extraction, storage and brokering of displacement data. It analyzes iris-enrollment as problematic acts of quasi-citizenship for the displaced requiring the performance of social and economic docility in order to attain identity, cash and service provision...

The UNHCR’s biometric registration of refugees in Jordan began in 2013 as the organization introduced biometric software to displacement contexts in five Middle Eastern countries. This was done through software from the Jordanian company IrisGuard, who had developed iris-scanners utilized by homeland security...in partnership with the Jordanian Government...The outcome was the EyeGuard AD100.

...By 2019, the global biometric market was estimated to grow from 33 USD billion to 65.3 USD billion by 2024...Many of the companies involved come from the security, defence and border control sectors, attracted by the significant economic incentives in the form of contracts and subcontracts for the digitizing humanitarian infrastructure and supply chain.

IrisGuard is one example...

Through its involvement in displacement contexts, IrisGuard has secured patents on technologies like EyePay, EyeCloud and EyeCash, and consolidated itself on the global market for displacement biometrics.

...The reassembling of refugee identities through extraction and iris data-doubles leads to urgent questions about privacy, technological harms and the docility required from displaced persons to access rights and entitlements...