A hot potato: Smartwatches have come a long way in recent years. In the UK, they'll soon be used as a way to track migrants who have been convicted of a criminal offense through the use of face scanning and facial recognition technology.
The Guardian reports that plans from the UK's Home Office and the Ministry of Justice involve smartwatches installed with facial recognition software scanning the faces of migrants with criminal records up to five times per day. The scheme is set to come into effect this fall at the cost of $6 million ($7.25 million), though it's unknown how many watches will be produced and the individual build price for each unit.
British technology company Buddi Limited will create the "non-fitted devices" to monitor "specific cohorts," part of the Home Office Satellite Tracking Service.
Buddi's website shows it creates wrist wearables and clip-on devices that allow vulnerable people to alert others in an emergency. The wristbands also have Apple Watch-style fall detection and location finders that track wearers.
The Home Office's scheme will involve "daily monitoring of individuals subject to immigration control," requiring them to wear an ankle tag or smartwatch that must be worn at all times.
The system works by requiring a wearer to take a photo of themselves on the smartwatch up to five times per day. The images will be cross-checked against biometric facial images held on Home Office systems—any failed verifications will require a manual check.
The scheme will allow the Home Office to track someone "24/7." Location data will be recorded, and names, dates of birth, nationality, and photographs will be stored for six years. It's also expected that those who wear the watches will be subject to curfews and exclusion zone rules.
The watches will be given to foreign-national offenders convicted of a criminal offense rather than specific groups, such as asylum seekers.
The plan has generated plenty of controversy over the constant monitoring and use of facial recognition, which has a history of being less than perfect.
It's fair to say that news of this monitoring technology would have been less surprising had it come from China. The country's surveillance efforts have involved everything from a Minority Report-style future-crime predictor, to gait- and emotion-recognition tech. There was also the recent porn-detection helmet—pornography has been illegal in the country since 1949.