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Kidnap-wary Mexicans get chipped

Shot in the arm for RFID?

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Mexico's attorney general has taken the unusual step of having an "anti-kidnap" chip stuck in his arm and then making the fact public - thereby ensuring that anyone lifting señor Rafael Macedo de la Concha will be certain to remove said limb at their earliest convenience.

Mexico is suffering a kidnapping epidemic, with up to 3,000 people abducted every year. Thousands of the country's citizens recently took to the streets to demand action.

Accordingly, Concha announced that several senior members of his staff plus 160 employees at a new crime database centre have also received the chips, which allegedly "serve both as an identity device and a tracking mechanism should they be kidnapped", the Guardian reports.

Concha did, however, admit that the principal role of the system was to restrict access to the database centre in an attempt to fight widespread corruption - considered a major factor in the authorities' lack of success in tackling the kidnap problem.

One-armed bandido

Which makes sense, because there is no indication as to exactly how the chip can be "tracked", nor any evidence to suggest that it can be tracked at all. Furthermore, the widespread publicity surrounding the chips has provoked one gang - known as "el chip" - to strip its victims and aggressively demand if they are tagged. Presumably, once they have accrued enough funds from their illicit activities, el chip will buy a chip scanner and save everyone a lot of time and needless upset.

The issue of permanently tagging people remains controversial - and not just because of its questionable value, as certainly applies to the Mexican deployment. In 2002, US outfit Applied Digital Solutions' VeriChip RFID tagged one Jacobs family. As we reported at the time, Applied Digital Solutions "want people to accept it as natural on the basis that's it's entirely positive, and everybody should have it done. The security potential is substantial, and the privacy issues come clanking along behind."

They certainly do. The public's response to RFID technology has been at best lukewarm, at worst hostile. Punters don't even like RFID tags being attached to goods in shops - as the cases of Wal-Mart and German retail giant Metro prove - let alone implanted into their arms.

Even where the apparent benefits seem to justify such tagging of humans, the response to the idea is generally one of revulsion. Kevin Warwick - aka "Captain Cyborg" - felt the full force of public opprobrium when he announced his intention to chip an 11-year-old in response to the abduction and murder of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.

Mercifully, nothing came of Warwick's plan. In any case - and as many suggested at the time - had Wells and Chapman themselves been tagged it would have served only for an instant identification of their bodies. The same can be said of Rafael Macedo de la Concha's and his "anti-kidnap" chip. ®

Related stories

Subdermal RFID chip provokes furore
Wal-Mart attracts more RFID flak
Germans revolt against RFID
Moratorium on RFID chips urged
RFID Chips Are Here
Kev Warwick cyberkiddie no closer to activation
Kid-chipper Cap Cyborg reported to police, social services
Cap Cyborg to chip 11 year old in wake of UK child killings

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