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A French multinational that designs and manufactures electrical systems for the aerospace and defense industries. Supplies biometric technologies for the databases used to surveil immigrants in the US.

Thales is a military and IT company based in Paris, France, partially owned (25%) by the French government. In 2020, almost half of the Thales’s customers were military clients and the company generated $20 billion in revenue, 60% of which was from its government customers, primarily France, the U.K., and Australia. Thales has been a prime contractor of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) since 2000, for services such as telecom equipment, aircraft manufacturing, navigational equipment, and data related activities. As of September 2021, it had been awarded over $2.8 billion in U.S. federal contracts, mostly by DoD. In 2019, the company acquired Gemalto, which has several contracts with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Through its subsidiary Gemalto, Thales played a key role in developing the fingerprint matching component of DHS’s biometric database, known as IDENT. The database, designed and operated by General Dynamics, contains biometric profiles of at least 268 million people. This was the key technology behind the Secure Communities program, enabling automated fingerprint sharing between local law enforcement and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Secure Communities was launched in March 2008 and triggered a sharp increase in deportations during the first years of the Obama administration. By the time of its suspension in November 2014, the program was already responsible for an estimated 450,000 deportations.

IDENT is being migrated and upgraded into the agency’s novel Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology system (HART), which also collects and analyzes facial images, DNA profiles, iris scans, digital fingerprints, and voice prints in order to construct unique profiles of hundreds of millions of people in combination with other biographic information. HART sources this information from and shares it with other federal agencies, local law enforcement, and some foreign governments. The database is hosted on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud and Thales has stated it expects the database to “encompass biometrics for 500 million people.”

In 2018, Gemalto was awarded a subcontract to support Northrop Grumman’s development of HART in order to “take critical biometric identity technology to the next level” by matching information on undocumented residents, immigrants, and even citizens with biometric and other biographic information. Gemalto provides HART with its fingerprint matching technology and supplies DHS with ePassports, which may include electronic devices embedded in physical passports, digital IDs on mobile devices, and documents paired with biometric identification such as facial recognition. Gemalto similarly designed fingerprint identification technology for the European Union’s Entry-Exit System, which stores biometric information belonging to asylum-seekers and detainees.

In April 2018, Gemalto was awarded a contract by the U.S. Department of State to provide “3M Cogent’s Automated Biometric Identification System (CABIS).” CABIS is a biometric matching tool that speeds up searches in biometric databases and has been deployed in IDENT since 1994. In addition, CABIS is capable of “processing ten prints, palm prints, finger latents, palm latents, faces, and irises” and has been used in 80 countries worldwide. Gemalto acquired 3M's Identity Management Business, which included 3M Cogent Inc, in 2017.

Political Influence

Although headquartered in France, Thales spent $19.3 million in lobbying expenses from 1999 to September 2021 in order to influence U.S. politics on issues such as: tactical warfare systems, defense appropriations, tactical radios, identification at ports of entry, digital driver licenses, Medicare identity verification, and aerospace.

Unless specified otherwise, the information in this page is valid as of
13 September 2021