The UK Home Office and Ministry of Justice have reportedly found a new use for smartwatches: monitoring certain people by having them submit photos of their faces up to five times a day.
The Guardian reports that “migrants who have been convicted of a criminal offence” will have to undergo this smartwatch-based surveillance from the end of this year.
The devices used in this monitoring program will be supplied by a company called Buddi Limited who state on their website that its “focus is on peace of mind by enabling people to live independently in their own homes for longer” through its smartwatch-enabled service.
Buddi currently offers two devices: a wristband that “can automatically detect falls and has buttons you can press if you need help” and a clip-on device that “has a built-in speaker and microphone for two-way communication in the event of an alert. are activated.”
According The Guardianwhich indicates that the UK government expects to store information about people it monitors for up to six years.
It is unclear from the report if the UK government expects Buddi to produce a smartwatch capable of taking photos or if the images would be captured using a smartphone instead. It’s also unclear exactly how the government will determine who to track with these devices.
The UK Home Office reportedly said the trackers “will be aimed at overseas offenders who have been convicted of a criminal offence, rather than other groups, such as asylum seekers”. But that might not be the case, intentionally or not, once the devices are officially rolled out.
The Guardian reports that the UK government plans to spend around $7.2m (£6m) on this program to get started, but “the number of devices to be produced and the cost of each smartwatch have been redacted in the contract” , so the full scope of the program remains unknown.