BID and Liberty call for an end to intrusive GPS monitoring

This has direct impact on time-served prisoners who are ‘released’ on immigration bail:

Updated with article dated 23 May 2022: Privacy International: PI submission on the GPS Tracking of Migrants in the UK

Privacy International has made a submission to the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration inspection of the Home Office Satellite Tracking Service Programme. We highlighted some of our concerns about the intrusive nature of location data as well as systemic failures relating to the quality of tags and battery life of devices which have a significant impact on individuals, as battery depletion can result in criminal prosecution.

Updated with Privacy International article dated 9 February 2022: Electronic monitoring using GPS tags: a tech primer

Electronic tags have been a key part of criminal justice for many years throughout the world. As traditional radio-frequency tags are replaced by GPS ankle tags, we examine how these different technologies work and the seismic shift that will result from 24/7 location monitoring and data analytics, enabled by GPS tags.

Read more:

14 June 2021: from BID and Liberty: Our letter, signed by 42 organisations, was covered in an article below in the Guardian

The most recent Home Office bail policy sets out its plan to transition from radio frequency
monitoring to GPS monitoring for people on immigration bail. Whereas radio frequency monitoring can verify whether a person is where they should be at a given time, GPS monitoring provides 24/7 real time location monitoring, tracking an individual’s every move: it tells you where someone has gone, where they have shopped, what GP’s practice they have been to, and much more. Those who are being monitored in this way do not know when the ordeal will end because there is no time limit for how long people will be tracked.

Electronic monitoring of any kind already amounts to a significant interference with individual liberty and privacy. There is substantial evidence that it causes considerable psychological harm. 

The Supreme Court has accepted in the case of Jalloh that curfews (which are part and parcel of electronic monitoring immigration bail conditions) amount to a form of detention. 

GPS monitoring is far more intrusive, and closer to imprisonment, than curfews. It may well have a greater psychological impact upon the wearer. It effectively amounts to an extension of immigration detention outside the physical walls of immigration removal centres or prisons. 

How the data will be used

The Home Office has given itself almost unlimited discretion to retrospectively access 24/7 geolocation data. This data will be collected, processed and retained by the private subcontractor – Capita – and may be accessed by the Home Office under certain circumstances including “where it may be relevant to a claim by the individual under Article 8 ECHR”. 

Article 8 claims relate to a person’s family or private life and may involve considerable personal and private details about an individual’s life. A fundamentally dangerous implication of this proposal is that people who make human rights claims will now be required to give the state carte blanche to access highly personal and sensitive geolocation data—simply because it “may be relevant” to their claim.
Worse still is the fact that it appears that individuals may not even be made aware of this when it happens.

This attempt to harvest immense volumes of geolocation data for purposes that go far beyond monitoring compliance with bail conditions was neither foreseen nor debated by parliament. This is in stark contrast with the use of electronic monitoring in the criminal justice system, where electronic monitoring data must only be “processed for specified, explicit and legitimate purposes”

The government is currently preparing a Statutory Instrument to make electronic monitoring compulsory for all those facing deportation except where one of two exceptions apply, meaning thousands of additional people will likely be subject to this far more invasive form of monitoring. 

Read the Guardian’s article here

Read our letter here

See the post here: