Newsletter: Immigration, Data and Technology

Welcome to the June edition of Immigration, Data and Technology! 

We hope you’re keeping well.

This month we were invited by the Migrants’ Rights Network and Runnymede Trust to speak at the All Party Parliamentary Group on Race and Community event ‘What kind of Highly Skilled Migrant does the UK want?’ We spoke about the profiling of migrants and unlawful data-sharing between the Home Office and other government departments. 

The event gave us the opportunity to draw attention to the Government’s wider ambition to increase data collection and sharing of personal data and what this means for our civil liberties, privacy and civil rights especially for those who are in vulnerable situations.

My colleague Heather and I also wrote a blog in response to the Home Secretary’s letter to social media companies urging them to remove posts which ‘glamourise’ dangerous migrant crossings from Europe.

We explained how upcoming content moderation laws in the Online Safety Bill can and will be used by politicians to silence conversations they don’t want you to hear. We also argued that as long as the Government continues in its approach to Channel crossings, people will continue to undertake this perilous journey, and be at risk of abuse and exploitation from people smugglers regardless of whether or not platforms follow the demand to censor that content.

Many of you have been asking what’s next regarding our joint campaign with the3million to remove the Immigration Exemption from the Data Protection Act 2018. We received news that the Government decided not to appeal against the decision made by by the Court of Appeal which found the UK immigration exemption to be unlawful and excessive. We’ve also been informed that a relief hearing will take place on 7 October. We’ll make sure to keep you updated.

College of Policing Live Facial Recognition Technology Consultation

Last week, we joined with Privacy International (PI), Liberty, Defend Digital Me and Big Brother Watch to respond to the College of Policing Live facial recognition technology consultation (LFRT). 

The College of Policing is developing new national guidance on how police forces in England and Wales use LFRT. Whilst David Tucker, crime lead at the College of Policing has stated that the new guidance will ensure the use of live facial recognition technology is ‘necessary and proportionate and is used within a clear legal and ethical framework’ our response makes clear that LFRT poses significant and unmitigable risks to society and can never be safely deployed in public spaces.

PI have written an Open Letter calling on Parliament and relevant stakeholders to halt the use of LRFT by the police and private companies entirely. They will be circulating this letter next week asking for your support so please do keep an eye out for it.

Online Best Practice Guide

We are currently working to create an online best practice guide for migrants’ rights groups and organisations. Our aim is to provide migrants’ rights groups and organisations with practical information and advice on data, privacy and new technologies for immigration control and how you can challenge the threats that emerge from these so that you can better advocate for migrants. We welcome your input so if there’s anything specific that you would like to see be included in the guide, please get in touch with me at:

Get Involved

We are continuing to campaign against the Government creating a digital police state and encourage you to get involved. This dramatic expansion of Police powers without any checks and balances (similar to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill) must be scrapped.

Read our submission to the Cabinet Office’s National Fraud Initiative Data Matching Powers public consultation where we explain how the proposals will likely impact migrants.

Write to your MP to ask Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office Minister, to scrap proposals for creating a Digital Police State.

Tools, Publications and Resources

We’ve compiled some resources to help those working for migrants’ rights and their clients better understand data, privacy and technology issues. Some of these have been created by ORG, some by other privacy rights organisations and others in collaboration with migrants’ rights organisations.

Privacy International | PI and allies respond to College of Policing consultation, stating that live facial recognition tech can never be safely deployed in public spaces

Open Rights Group | Is Government preparing to censor discussions about migration?

The Guardian | Home Office condemned for forcing migrants on bail to wear GPS tags

Free Movement | New data matching powers are a threat to migrant communities

Open Rights Group | Open Rights Group: Response to the consultation on the National Fraud Initiative Data Matching Powers proposals

Migrants’ Rights Network | Know Your Rights Guide 2020

Open Rights Group | Immigration, Data and Technology: Needs and Capacities of the Immigration Sector

Thanks for reading! And please do share with others who may want to know more about the impact of data and technology on migrants’ rights.

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