September 03, 2002
Implanting chips to track missing children?

Friends over at Y3K alerted me to "cyborg professor" Kevin Warwick's latest stunt:

Following the recent abduction of ten year olds Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, the Mirror reports that Wendy and Paul Duval have decided to implant their daughter, Danielle, with "a microchip to track her every move. "If she was kidnapped her exact location would be discovered via a computer."
My first thought was: how?? and very appropriately, Stig at y3k also includes a critical link from The Register:
possibly the reporter, possibly the reporter and the Duval family - have somehow managed to get themselves seriously misled about the capabilities of the technology. [...]

how does [it] work? Warwick's experiments in chipping himself haven't gone as far as GPS, at least publicly, and any communications aspect to them has been decidedly short range. An "invisible" device that handles both GPS and mobile phone communications, and doesn't need its batteries changing every five seconds would however clearly make him a large fortune, if it existed.[...]

So it's complete hokum, and under the circumstances pernicious. The Holly and Jessica case has generated much concern, and some hysteria in the UK, and stories such as the Mirror's serve only to fuel that hysteria by deluding parents into thinking that technology can somehow protect their children. And by pushing positive aspects of tagging, even years before it's actually feasible, they're softening public opinion up for the days when it can be widespread, and when its application can be more sinister. [...]

This is a publicity stunt well up to the usual mark, with the added extra of being in the worst possible taste. It marks the point where Captain Cyborg ceased to be comical, and started to look like something far worse.

I'm not going to cut and paste the whole article, but if these types of issues interest you - definitely head over to the Register's article...

Of course, such a stunt rise more questions than it answers: in the given future where such a technology exists - would it be advisable to use it? Would the Gonvernments of the world tag all newborns by default? Who would be responsible for avoiding abuse of the tracking system?

Imagine the marketing possibilities of knowing exactly which teenage girls went to the recent Britney Spears concert? or do some pattern matching of who goes where with their credit card purchases? Next time any one of the potential customers walk past a store, their "tracker-device"-detector could do some simple data mining (possibly provided by a third party a la Double click) and either modify the playlist to suit the nearby teenagers or announce special offers to them (imagine Shopper's Eye meeting MusicFX in some twisted, involuntary marketing scheme?)

Just my 2 cents. The future is only bright if we help people watch out for the side effects of new technology...

William Gibson:

"The future is here. It's just not widely distributed yet."
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Comments

i have a 2 year old daughter i would like to know if any one could send me information on where to get implanting chips to track missing children i live in NYC i would love to get the device for my daughter any information would help

Posted by: monica patterson on October 24, 2002 09:56 AM

Monica, whether your post is a troll or not (as you know, I'm not entirely convinced about the benefits of the technology); check out the URL(s) below:

http://www.wired.com/news/privacy/0,1848,55999,00.html
http://www.jacobsen.no/anders/blog/archives/2002/09/09/be_afraid_for_big_brother_is_coming_closer.html

Posted by: andersja on October 25, 2002 05:34 PM
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