LONDON: The UK Home Office and Ministry of Justice announced on Friday that migrants who have been convicted of a criminal offense will soon be required to scan their faces using facial recognition technology.
The Home Office said that the scheme will involve “daily monitoring of individuals subject to immigration control,” with the requirement to wear either a fitted ankle tag or a smartwatch at all times.
The individuals will be required to scan their faces using the smartwatches up to five times a day. Information including their names, date of birth, nationality and photographs will be stored for up to six years.
Locations of migrant offenders will also be tracked 24/7.
The data will be shared with the Home Office, MoJ and the police, with Home Office officials stressing: “The sharing of this data (to) police colleagues is not new.”
The Home Office added that the smartwatch scheme will be for foreign-national offenders who have been convicted of a criminal offense, rather than other groups such as asylum seekers.
Critics highlighted that the surveillance scheme is a clear breach of human rights, and is likely to impact asylum seekers’ mental health.
“Facial recognition is known to be an imperfect and dangerous technology that tends to discriminate against people of color and marginalized communities,” said Lucie Audibert, a lawyer and legal officer for Privacy International.
“These ‘innovations’ in policing and surveillance are often driven by private companies, who profit from governments’ race toward total surveillance and control of populations.”
“Through their opaque technologies and algorithms, they facilitate government discrimination and human rights abuses without any accountability. No other country in Europe has deployed this dehumanizing and invasive technology against migrants,” she said.
According to the UK government website, the Ministry of Justice had awarded a £6 million contract to British technology company ‘Buddi Limited’ in May to supply electronic monitoring non-fitted devices “to support implementation of the Home Office Satellite Tracking Service for specific cohorts.”
This service, introduced in 2018, uses satellite technology to monitor foreign offenders awaiting deportation.
“A non-fitted device solution will provide a more proportionate way of monitoring specific cohorts over extended periods of time than fitted tags,” the statement on the website reads.
“These devices will utilize periodic biometric verification as an alternative to being fitted to an individual.”