VIENNA, Austria - In mid-November, a fugitive migrant smuggler was subject to a police check in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina with a group of migrants crossing the Balkans towards Western Europe.
Wanted on organized crime and human trafficking charges since 2021, the smuggler presented himself as a fellow migrant under a false name, using a fraudulent identification document to avoid detection.
The police check, however, was part of an INTERPOL operation that saw the Biometric Hub – a new tool that checks biometric data against the organization’s global fingerprint and facial recognition databases – used remotely for the first time.
When the smuggler’s photo was run through the Biometric Hub, it immediately flagged that he was wanted in another European country. He was arrested and is currently awaiting extradition.
The operation, which took place across six countries in the Adriatic region, was part of INTERPOL’s Hotspot initiative, which uses biometric data to help detect foreign terrorist fighters and criminals who try to cross irregular border points.
Cyril Gout, INTERPOL’s Director of Operational Support and Analysis, said:
“A fugitive can change their name and many aspects of their appearance to try and escape justice, but it is difficult if not impossible to change your biometric data. This is why biometrics remain the most reliable way to identify someone.
1 million searches per day
Underpinning the BioHub is a ‘biometric core’ that encompasses INTERPOL’s existing fingerprint and facial recognition databases together with a matching system based on technology developed by the company IDEMIA.
An effective tool for screening individuals crossing a border, the BioHub can also be used for regular police operations within a country.
Over the next two years, the tool will be progressively rolled out to border points and frontline officers across INTERPOL’s membership.
The system is expected to perform up to 1 million forensic searches per day, including fingerprints, palm prints and portraits.
Improved data governance
Previous checks against INTERPOL’s biometric databases were subject to separate, multi-step processes that systematically included human handling or review, meaning that any hits would not be immediately flagged to the requesting officer.
With the BioHub, officers can submit data to both databases through a single interface, which swiftly provides results and allows users to monitor the status of their requests.
Human review from INTERPOL’s forensic experts is only required in cases where the quality of the captured biometric data is such that the match falls below a designated threshold.
Crucially, the BioHub also further improves data governance, in line with INTERPOL’s robust data protection framework.
Biometric data run through the Hub in a search is not added to INTERPOL’s criminal databases, is not visible to other users and any data that does not result in a match is deleted following the search.
Presented earlier this year to INTERPOL’s membership at the organization’s Heads of National Central Bureaus conference in Singapore, the Biometric Hub was rolled out in October and is now available to all 196 member countries.