Software Update Caused Hundreds of Police Ankle Monitors to Go Dark

Photo: Wilfredo Lee (AP)

Like a scene out of a dystopian police state film, a failed software update caused hundreds of ankle monitoring devices in the Netherlands to go dark from police surveillance on Thursday.

The Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security released an announcement Friday explaining the digital hiccup that took many suspected and alleged criminals as well as people on probation off of law enforcement’s radar. According to the release, a software update caused a disruption that prevented the control room from receiving data from the devices.

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Dutch news outlet NU reported that the glitch caused police, probation organizations, and other justice agencies to intervene and preventively arrest many of the bracelet wearers.

The Dutch government said that alleged victims and their relatives were notified immediately after officials knew the system had malfunctioned since the devices are often used to make sure offenders don’t come close to victims.

NU could not find out from officials how many people in the country were wearing ankle bracelets yesterday, but the outlet reports that in 2017, about 700 people wore ankle bracelets on an average day.

As ZDNet points out in its coverage of the incident, this is the second time ankle bracelets have malfunctioned in the Netherlands. In August 2018, a telecom outage reportedly knocked about 60 percent of the country’s ankle bracelet monitors off of police radar.

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Following Thursday’s incident, the Dutch government vowed to “make the system 100 percent stable again.”

According to the Ministry of Justice and Security, the monitoring system is operational again and “all ankle strap carriers are in view.”

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Jennings Brown

Senior editor and reporter at Gizmodo