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What say you? UK will use GPS fingerprint scanner to track people facing deportation

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Article was first written at New Scientist

The UK’s Home Office will use a key fob-like device to track people who are subject to deportation orders 24 hours a day, meaning at any point they could be required to scan their fingerprints and confirm their location.

People who are subject to deportation orders in the UK will soon be required to carry a GPS-enabled fingerprint scanner at all times, so that the Home Office can verify their location and identity, New Scientist has learned. Privacy campaigners say the devices are a form of unnecessary biometric surveillance that could exacerbate people’s mental health problems.

The UK began using GPS-enabled ankle tags to track adult foreign-national offenders who are subject to deportation orders in August 2021. People in this position, also known as immigration bail, aren’t UK citizens and have committed a crime that resulted in a custodial sentence of more than 12 months or are considered to be “persistent offenders”. According to the most recent data, as of 30 September, 2146 people were being monitored in this way.

The new devices, which resemble a large key fob and are produced by Buddi, will be given to people on immigration bail soon, the Home Office has confirmed. They will track an individual’s location 24 hours a day. Lucie Audibert at Privacy International says the charity understands that the devices will be rolled out this autumn.

Users of the device will have to scan their fingers when prompted, to confirm their identity and proximity to the device. The Home Office wouldn’t say how often this will be required and hasn’t said explicitly why the fingerprint scanners will be better than ankle tags.

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