A new GPS-enabled fingerprint scanner will assist the UK’s Home Office to keep a tab on those facing deportation, much to the dismay of privacy campaigners.
GPS-enabled ankle tags have already been in use in the UK since at least August 2021 to track people subject to deportation orders.
But taking it a notch higher, and to verify the exact location and identity of such offenders, the UK will soon bring into operation a GPS-enabled fingerprint scanner, a report published by New Scientist said.
Buddi, a company founded in 2005 by British entrepreneur Sara Murray that boasts of providing “personal alarm services for the elderly”, will be making the new tracking devices for the UK government, which in appearance will resemble a large key fob.
The offenders, much to the displeasure of privacy rights campaigners, will have to carry those devices with them at all times. Rights campaigners say such a measure is a form of unnecessary biometric surveillance and could add to people’s mental health problems.
Who are these offenders?
They are non-UK residents, released on immigration bail, and have committed a crime that landed them in a prison for a time period of 12 months or more. As of September 30 this year, at least 2,146 people are being monitored.
How will it work?
Those equipped with the wearable device will be required to scan their fingers on being prompted. This will allow the authorities to verify their identity and know their location.
Lucie Audibert at Privacy International – a UK-based charity promoting right to privacy – told New Scientist the devices may be rolled out this autumn.
“People will still have their location tracked 24/7 and further anxiety may come from being unable to submit your fingerprint scan for one reason or another,” Audibert was quoted as saying.
“It may also feed into the normalisation of GPS tracking as it becomes physically and morally more tolerable and acceptable to wear this new device than an ankle tag that is loaded with stigma,” she added.
There is not enough information available yet about when these devices will be put to use or how often the offenders will be required to scan, but what is definitely known is that the UK will be able to track an individual’s location 24 hours a day.