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.