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Facial recognition smartwatches soon to be used to monitor foreign offenders in UK?

In the UK, migrants convicted of a criminal offense will soon be required to wear a smartwatch at all times, according to Home Office and Justice Department documents obtained by British daily ‘The Guardian’, which publishes a article on the subject this Friday, August 5th. These watches, equipped with facial recognition technology, will allow migrants to be constantly checked, by scanning their faces up to five times a day. Their location will also be recorded.

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In May, the UK government signed a contract with UK firm Buddi Limited to provide ‘unmanned devices’ to monitor ‘specific categories’ of the population, as part of the Home Office Satellite Tracking Service. (Home Office Satellite Tracking Service) of the Home Office.

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The system is due to be introduced from the autumn across the UK, at an initial cost of around £6million.

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In a study by the Ministry of the Interior on data protection, it is stated that the system will involve “daily monitoring of people subject to immigration control”with the obligation to permanently wear either an ankle bracelet or a smartwatch.

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People forced to wear these devices will have to carry out regular checks throughout the day by taking a picture of themselves on a smartwatch. Their personal information (name, date of birth, nationality and photo) will be kept for a maximum of six years. Their location will be tracked “24 hours a day, 7 days a week, which will allow their movements to be monitored”.

Photographs taken using the smartwatches will be compared to biometric facial images from Home Office data. If image verification fails, a manual verification will need to be performed. The data will also be shared with the Ministry of Justice and the police.

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“Curfews, permitted areas, prohibited areas”

The Home Office clarifies that the smartwatch program will be aimed at foreign offenders who have been convicted of a criminal offence, and not at other groups – such as asylum seekers – according to ‘The Guardian’.

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However, it is expected that people obliged to wear connected watches will be subject to conditions similar to those of people equipped with electronic bracelets. These include curfews, permitted zones and exclusion zones.

In June, the government declared that it considers electronic surveillance to be “a cost-effective alternative to detention, which contributes to its objectives of protecting the public and reducing recidivism”.

“Race for surveillance”

The project has sparked strong protest from activists and NGOs, who claim that the surveillance directed at certain categories of the population is discriminatory and dangerous.

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“Facial recognition is known to be a flawed and dangerous technology that tends to discriminate against people of color and marginalized communities. These “innovations” in policing and surveillance are often the work of private companies, which profit from the race of governments for total surveillance and control of populations”Lucie Audibert, lawyer and legal officer of Privacy International, told “The Guardian”.

“Through their opaque technologies and algorithms, they facilitate government discrimination and human rights abuses without accountability. No other country in Europe has deployed this dehumanizing and invasive technology against migrants”she added.

This policy is part of the government’s desire to expel delinquent foreigners. Since January 2019, the British government has reportedly expelled more than 10,000 foreign criminals, according to the British daily.

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