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On March 1, 2024, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO”) announced that it had issued an enforcement notice and a warning to the UK Home Office for failing to sufficiently assess the privacy risks posed by the electronic monitoring of people arriving in the UK via unauthorized means. The Home Office is the ministerial department of the UK government responsible for immigration, security, and law and order.

According to its statement, the ICO had been in discussions with the Home Office since August 2022 regarding its pilot, which involved the use of ankle tags and the GPS location tracking of up to 600 migrants who arrived in the UK and were on immigration bail. This pilot was intended to test whether electronic monitoring is an effective way to maintain regular contact with asylum claimants, while reducing the risk of absconding, and to establish whether it is an effective alternative to detention. 

In the ICO’s consideration of the pilot, it found that the Home Office, among other things, failed to:

  • sufficiently assess the privacy intrusion of the continuous collection of an individual’s location information;
  • sufficiently assess the potential impact on individuals who may be in a vulnerable position due to their immigration status; 
  • provide clear and easily accessible information about the data processing, such as why the data was being collected and how it would be used; and
  • provide sufficient direction to staff on when it would be necessary and proportionate to conduct this form of monitoring.

While the pilot ended in December 2023, the Home Office will continue to have access to the data collected during the pilot until it is deleted or anonymized. According to the ICO statement, the enforcement notice orders the Home Office to update its internal policies, guidance and privacy information relating to the pilot, while the formal warning confirms that any future processing by the Home Office on the same basis will be a breach of UK data protection law and will attract enforcement action.