BBC (2003): Would a MICROCHIP keep your child ’safe’? - Or would a killer cut out the chip? *

BBC News
18.12.2003
By Megan Lane

Transmitter chips and GPS trackers are devices designed to help to trace a child’s whereabouts. But do hi-tech solutions raise more problems than they solve?

A month after the bodies of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman were found in a remote ditch[…]

Professor Kevin Warwick, of Reading University, convinced the Duval family that a microchip implanted in their 11-year-old daughter Danielle’s arm would ease their fears.

The youngster was nervous about going out alone, following media coverage of the Soham case.

If she went missing with a chip installed, it would send a signal via mobile phone networks to a computer, which would pinpoint her location on an electronic map.

In the past five years, dozens of murderers have been convicted partly as a result of evidence from mobile phones.

Professor Warwick says the backlash against the scheme - numerous children’s charities came out against the plan - forced him to reconsider. “I was perceived to be an ogre trying to do nasty things to children. The opposition to it made me think that ethically, this is something not deemed to be appropriate.”

The Duvals are not alone in their interest in child surveillance technologies. “Every week I get someone e-mailing me to ask if I can do something for their child,” says Professor Warwick.

Research by nVision, the online database of the think tank Future Foundation, found that 75% of British parents would buy a device to trace their child’s movements.

There are RFID tags (radio frequency identification technology), which contain a silicon chip able to hold a large amount of data and an antenna able to transmit that information to a reading device.

RFID chips are already used to tag pets and other livestock for identification[…]

Then there are concerns about the long-term health effects of such devices, especially microchips transmitting signals from inside young bodies.

Many children now carry a mobile phone as a matter of course. Their location can be traced by triangulating the signal.

Mobile phone technology was a key part of the police investigation into the murder of Holly and Jessica.

By working out which ground station Jessica’s phone was using, detectives were able to pinpoint its precise location when it was turned off.

Because for all the fear about strangers who may pose a danger, just a fraction of the children murdered each year die at the hands of an unknown assailant.

Kidnaps and murders by strangers are no more common than 20 years ago, according to Home Office figures which show there are, on average, six such deaths a year.

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