The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has just introduced FCO Locate, a people-tracking service that makes it easier to locate Britons abroad in case of emergency.
Image via datenform.de
Any British travellers are recommended to register even if they’re are only going on short holidays. After registering, you can then log in every time you’re travelling again to enter your new dates and contact information. The service arrives after a recently conducted survey which revealed over 50% of British travellers don’t leave contact details with their friends and family.
If nothing else, Locate provides a simple way of communicating between home and abroad should a crisis occur. For example, you could find yourself in a situation where an event has taken place and you simply want to let your friends and family know that you are safe and well.
My immediate concerns were those of privacy and just how easy it is for anyone to find out your details. So I’m going to register for my next trip and see just how the FCO Locate system works for finding information on the outside. I’ll update this post when I have some results.
You can register your details on FCO Locate here:
Okay, so I registered with the Locate service.
Firstly, registering only requires your email address and a username, with some security questions in case you forget your password. Business as usual, then. Once you get inside, you then need to fill in a longer form, giving personal details and journey details.
Several of these fields are required:
- • Forename
- • Surname
- • Date of Birth
- • Passport No. + issue date
- • Nationality
- • Destination country + travel dates
- • At least one form of contact at destination
You can easily add and update information and FCO strongly recommend you add at least one emergency contact as well as any family members accompanying you, but it’s not compulsory.
So now the government knows my name, my age, that I have a passport, that I’m British and that I’m going to Sweden in September. Oh and they can contact me on my mobile there.
It’s hardly Nineteen Eighty-Four, in fact they could probably find out that information easily enough anyway. So what do FCO do with this information? They basically act as a middleman between the traveller and friends/family back home.
By entering emergency contacts, you can confirm information to FCO and they can pass this information on. Or someone at home can register your details and if you confirm the information, you can allow them to be contacted with news.
Locate confirms what happens with your data:
Your details will be stored on a secure database which can only be accessed by staff in our embassies or our Consular Crisis Group.
- • we will only use your details to contact you
- • we will delete the details of a trip once it has ended.
When it comes down to it, FCO Locate is a handy system should you ever find yourself in a pickle abroad. It’s less for a weekend away and more for that three month backpacking of Asia you’ve been planning. You’ll have to swallow your paranoia to register, though.
Update 2 (20th May 2013):
As pointed out by a reader below, the Locate service seems to have been stopped by the FCO. Their site now has this message:
Please be aware that the LOCATE Service is no longer available.
You may find the following information for British nationals overseas helpful.