HOTSPOT is an initiative that works to stop terrorists crossing borders and to disrupt the networks that facilitate their travel.
INTERPOL’s databases of fingerprints and facial images are central to the project.
In the first instance, the project aims to increase the amount of data that our member countries contribute to the two databases. In the long term, this will help detect foreign terrorist fighters and criminals who try to cross borders illegitimately.
Law enforcement officers at frontline locations around the world will be able to crosscheck biometric information against INTERPOL’s face and fingerprint databases.
Results are returned in real time. This means that, in the event of a match, follow-up action can be taken immediately.
Where there is a reliable Internet connection, checks are made directly against INTERPOL’s Automatic Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) using the Organization’s secure global police communications system known as I-24/7.
If there is a lack of Internet coverage, checks will still possible via a watchlist stored in a handheld device. In this way, biometric checks can be carried out in remote locations or where technical infrastructure is inadequate.
Testing in the Western Balkans
A data collection and screening trial was conducted in Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia in September and October 2019.
Specialized officers from the INTERPOL General Secretariat worked with officers in the four countries from the INTERPOL National Central Bureaus and national police agencies responsible for forensics, borders, counter-terrorism and organized crime.
Over a four-week period, officers collected fingerprints and facial photos from 480 individuals at border crossing points and reception centres for irregular migrants. These profiles were then screened against INTERPOL’s databases. On optimal Internet connection, crosscheck results were received within 20 seconds.
The profiles were collected from individuals – all over the age of 18 − claiming to come from Central Asia and the Middle East and North Africa region.
Data comparison revealed one match of an individual who had already been found trying to enter Europe illegally already in 2011. Case information was shared with respective countries for appropriate action.
The HOTSPOT testing provided a solid basis for the future development of the project. It is designed as a flexible concept that can be implemented worldwide, according to the specific needs of member countries.