Smartphone facial recognition touted for offender monitoring program

In light of project delays and changing technology, the UK should abandon ankle-tagging as a method of monitoring dangerous and repeat criminal offenders in favour of check-ins with smartphone facial recognition, according to Digital Barriers chief executive officer Zak Doffman.

UK Permanent Secretary Richard Heaton told MPs that a plan to create an offender monitoring program using GPS-enabled ankle tags will be not be introduced until 2019 or later, Police Professional reports. The project budget has already ballooned from £130 million to £190 million, with £5 million in spending written off due to the latest delays.

“A periodic check-in via facial recognition software installed on an offender’s smartphone, combined with its GPS location, offers a far simpler means of offender monitoring,” Police Professional reports Doffman said in response. “It can’t be cheated, offers an instant means of contacting the individual should they break curfew and can be delivered at a fraction of the cost. We already have the technology and, whilst it may be too early to deploy this for the highest risk offenders, it is the ideal solution for the vast majority of people tagged under such schemes.”

The program was originally announced in 2011 and intended to be implemented by late 2013, for a projected savings of as much as £30 million. The latest plan was to introduce off-the-shelf technology from G4S in late 2018. The Ministry of Justice plans to monitor 65,000 individuals.

The UK Home Office drew criticism from the Biometrics Commissioner in August for not adequately communicating with the public regarding plans for its facial recognition program.

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