September 25, 2022

In the UK, facial recognition smartwatches could be used to track migrants with criminal convictions, according to a scoop obtained by Guardian.

Under new plans from the Home Office and the Department of Justice, seen by the news agency, foreign offenders would have to have their faces scanned up to five times a day using devices equipped with the technology.

According to contract details on the UK government website, the Ministry of Justice awarded a £6m contract to British technology company Buddi Limited in May to procure electronic off-site monitoring devices “to support its implementation Home Office satellite tracking service for specific cohorts.” This service, introduced in 2018, uses satellite technology to track foreign offenders awaiting deportation.

“An unmounted device solution will provide a more proportional way of tracking specific cohorts over extended periods of time than mounted tags.” says the contract description. “These devices will use periodic biometric verification as an alternative to being placed on a person.”


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The Guardian it says the new program is due to be implemented this autumn and will involve “daily monitoring of people subject to immigration control”, according to Home Office documents seen. Immigrants who are told to wear a smart watch (or an ankle tag) must do so at all times – those required to wear the devices will have previously been convicted of a criminal offence. Other migrants, such as asylum seekers, are not part of the system.

People wearing the devices will reportedly have to provide photos of themselves taken with their designated device throughout the day. The apparatuses of government, the Guardian it says, it will store those photos and personal information for up to six years, including a person’s name, date of birth and nationality. The user’s location will be monitored 24/7.

The data will reportedly be shared with the Ministry of Justice and the police in addition to the Home Office.

Buddy was founded by Sara Murray in 2005, with the aim of selling products that protect vulnerable people, helping them ‘live independently in their own homes for longer’. According to the website, the company provides technology to 80 per cent of local authorities in the UK, in addition to “government customers around the world”.

When contacted by Mashable, Buddi declined to comment.

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