UK to launch facial recognition smartwatches to track foreign criminals
The Home Office has successfully tagged over 2,500 foreign criminals since August 2021. Representational image (iStock)
The Home Office in the UK and the Ministry of Justice have created a new plan to monitor foreign offenders in the country.
Under the plan, migrants convicted of crimes need to wear facial recognition smartwatches and should take photos up to five times a day, the Guardian reported.
With a cost of £6 million, the plan is likely to be rolled out in autumn. Since August 2021, the Home Office has successfully tagged over 2,500 foreign criminals, official data revealed.
According to the report, British technology company Buddi Limited will supply ‘non-fitted devices’ to monitor ‘specific cohorts’ as part of the Home Office Satellite Tracking Service.
The Home Office envisages the plan as daily monitoring of individuals subject to immigration control and they should wear either a fitted ankle tag or a smartwatch, every time.
Information including names, date of birth, nationality and photographs will be stored in the device for up to six years. It will also provide 24/7 monitoring and data recording facilities, the Guardian report added.
Photographs taken using the smartwatches will be cross-checked against biometric facial images on Home Office systems and if the image verification fails, a check must be performed manually. The data will be shared with the Home Office, MoJ and the police.
The Home Office says the smartwatch scheme will be for foreign-national offenders, not for asylum seekers.
Reports said that those obliged to wear the smartwatches will be subject to similar conditions to those fitted with GPS ankle tags, with references in the DPIA to curfews and inclusion and exclusion zones.
According to campaigners, 24-hour surveillance of asylum seekers breaches human rights, and will adversely impact migrants’ health and wellbeing.
Lucie Audibert, a lawyer and legal officer for Privacy International, has said that no country in Europe has deployed such ‘dehumanising and invasive technology’ against migrants.
“Facial recognition is known to be an imperfect and dangerous technology that tends to discriminate against people of colour and marginalised communities. These ‘innovations’ in policing and surveillance are often driven by private companies, who profit from governments’ race towards total surveillance and control of populations. Through their opaque technologies and algorithms, they facilitate government discrimination and human rights abuses without any accountability,” Audibert was quoted as saying by the Guardian.
Dr Monish Bhatia, a lecturer in criminology at Birkbeck, University of London, pointed out that some individuals may develop symptoms of anxiety, depression, suicide ideation and overall deterioration of mental health due to electronic monitoring.
A Home Office spokesperson said a ‘portable biometrically accessed device’ would soon be introduced to complement the existing fitted device, or ankle tag.
“Since January 2019, the government has removed over 10,000 foreign criminals. Foreign criminals should be in no doubt of our determination to deport them and the government is doing everything possible to increase the number of foreign national offenders being deported,” the spokesperson added.