In the UK, we are less than a week away from the new £1 coin coming into circulation, which has been billed as 'the most high-tech coin in the world'.

In an effort to reduce counterfeit, they have had a mysterious new technology integrated into their design, code named iSiS (Integrated Secure Identification Systems). There seems to be some deliberate ambiguity around the nature of this technology: undoubtedly as an attempt to unnerve potential counterfeiters, who can't counteract what they don't know about.

Some people are speculating that the 'top secret security' of the iSiS coins is in-fact an RFID or other microchip; which not only explains how 'thousands of coins [can] be scanned and verified in a matter of seconds', but among skeptics leads to concerns about them being used as tracking devices.

IF this were the case (and I'm certifiably not trying to persuade anyone that it is), what would be the legality of UK security services being able to use these coins to track citizens? If the coins were capable of this, wouldn't they be under an obligation to publicly disclose this?

  • Are you asking whether it is illegal without disclosure to equip the coins with an RFID chip, because it could allow tracking a person's movements? Or are you asking whether it is illegal without disclosure to make use of the coins as a means to track a person's movements? Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 11:39
  • well, I'd gladly accept a two part answer: but primarily the former. The latter is more an extension of what the technology is capable, and how this could be interpreted as a means of surveillance. Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 13:24
  • RFID are not capable of working as an antenna with enough efficiency, in order to work as a tracker with the technologies you know of (GPS, GALILEO, GLONASS). It could work as a tracker with devices that would scan for RFID from proximity. Scenario: You rob a bank, coins are chipped, next time you go buy something from a vending machine, the vending machine snaps a pic of you and alerts the police that a stolen coin has been used by this man. Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 14:48
  • Here's a link (security.stackexchange.com/questions/53673/…) describing how the security mechanism is thought to work. That discussion indicates the technology uses a material deposition process that can be read by machines, perhaps as simple as a UV LED scanner. It appears there is no radio technology used.
    – Dave D
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 16:29

1 Answer 1


Note: This answer is under the assumption that such coins are capable of functioning as tracking devices.

Unfortunately, the laws on privacy in the UK are quite primitive.

The main complaint against this coin that I can think of is that I wouldn't want the government knowing my location without my express permission.

That said, I am not aware of any laws granting someone the right to avoid being tracked.

I am not aware of any case law, as interesting it might be, of someone being tracked and followed, and filing a complaint to such activity. Although it would be possible to sue someone following/tracking you for harassment, it does seem like a fringe case.

The only realistic avenue for complaint against the introduction of these coins would be invoking one's rights under Article 8 of the ECHR:

Article 8 – Right to respect for private and family life

  1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

  2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

The key word here is respect.

The European Court of Human rights interprets the article in a very broad manner, and I would believe it possible to sue the UK for the infringement of the right to "respect" for one's private life if these coins make it possible to track a person's location wherever he is.

It is often the case, however, that with regards to issues of national security (which is what the government will likely invoke), courts take a deferential stance.

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