Report: UK to use smartwatches to enable constant surveillance

The UK Home Office and Ministry of Justice have reportedly found a new use for smartwatches: monitoring certain people by getting them to submit images of their faces up to five times a day.

Guardian reports(Opens in a new window) that “migrants who have been convicted of a criminal offence” are expected to submit to this smartwatch-based monitoring which will start later this year.

The devices used as part of this monitoring program will be supplied by a company called Buddi Limited, which says on its website(Opens in a new window) that its “focus is on providing peace of mind by enabling people to live independently in their own homes for longer” thanks to the smartwatch-enabled service.

Buddi currently offers two devices: a wristband that “can automatically detect falls and has buttons that can be pressed if you need help” and a clip-on device that “has a built-in speaker and a microphone that enables two-way communication when alerting enabled.”

The devices to be rolled out by the UK Home Office and Ministry of Justice will also continuously track the location of their users, according to Guardianwhich says the UK government expects to store information about the people it monitors for up to six years.

It is not clear from the report whether the UK government expects Buddi to produce a smartwatch capable of taking photos, or if the photos will be taken with a smartphone instead. It’s also not clear exactly how the government will decide who to track with these devices.

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The UK Home Office said the trackers “will be for foreign offenders who have been convicted of a criminal offence, rather than other groups, such as asylum seekers.” But that may not be the case – intentionally or not – when the devices are officially deployed.

Guardian reports that the UK government expects to spend approximately $7.2 million (£6 million) on this program to start, but “the number of units to be produced and the cost of each smartwatch were redacted in the contract,” so the full scope of the program is still unknown.

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