ICO issues stern warning to Home Office over tagging of migrants

01/03/2024 | ICO

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has issued an enforcement notice along with a stern warning to the Home Office for not properly assessing the privacy risks associated with the electronic monitoring of people entering the UK through unauthorised means. 

The enforcement action came following a complaint from Privacy International concerning a pilot programme in which the Home Office fitted GPS-enabled ankle tags on around 600 migrants on immigration bail in order to track their movements. The programme was developed to determine whether electronic monitoring is a practical way to maintain regular contact and reduce the danger of absconding. 

The ICO found that the Home Office failed to evaluate the privacy intrusion of continuous location data collection and the possible impact on people in vulnerable positions due to their immigration status. 

Furthermore, the Home Office didn't evaluate any less invasive alternative solutions or measures to mitigate against the risks, such as providing clear communication about why people's location data is being gathered, how it will be used, how long it will be kept for, and who it will be shared with.

Throughout the investigation, the Home Office failed to provide sufficient justification and evidence for its electronic monitoring pilot programme. The guidance provided to staff was also inadequate in terms of determining when such monitoring would be necessary and proportionate as an immigration bail condition. The ICO recommended that such intrusive processing should be accompanied by robust guidance and procedures to ensure it is applied consistently and in a privacy-preserving way.

Responding to the announcement for law firm Mischon de Reya, data protection specialist Jon Baines praised the ICO for enforcing the rights of the most vulnerable in society. 

In disusing the broader point of ICO's recent practice of issuing reprimands, Baines highlighted that reprimands do not compel recipients to do anything; however, enforcement notices like this require recipients to stop activities, and failure to comply can be treated as contempt of court. Baines further said that it will be interesting to see if the Home Office will appeal the notice.

Read Full Story
Home Office

What is this page?

You are reading a summary article on the Privacy Newsfeed, a free resource for DPOs and other professionals with privacy or data protection responsibilities helping them stay informed of industry news all in one place. The information here is a brief snippet relating to a single piece of original content or several articles about a common topic or thread. The main contributor is listed in the top left-hand corner, just beneath the article title.

The Privacy Newsfeed monitors over 300 global publications, of which more than 4,350 summary articles have been posted to the online archive dating back to the beginning of 2020. A weekly roundup is available by email every Friday.

Freevacy has been shortlisted in the Best Educator category.
The PICCASO Privacy Awards recognise the people making an outstanding contribution to this dynamic and fast-growing sector.