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'Let's track paedos with chip implants' - top cop fails tech test

Shall we just believe in witchcraft while we're about it?

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Britain's most senior policeman has, according to a Sunday Times report, suggested that surgically implanted chips could be used in order to track the movements of paedophiles and dangerous sex offenders. "If we are prepared to track cars, why don’t we track people? You could put surgical chips into those of the most dangerous sex offenders who are are willing to be controlled," said Ken Jones, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers.

Well Ken, where shall we begin? Should we explain that the chip you're talking about would have around about the same capabilities as the RFID chip that's going into ICAO standard passports? That this is the kind of technology you're probably going to insist can only be read in close proximity to a reading device? That if you tried really hard (and we're sure people will), you could read it at maybe 10, maybe 30 metres? That satellites are actually quite far away? Or that what GPS does is it tell a reading device on the ground where it is, which would only help paedophiles if they were lost - if it's going to help you then you need to insert another bit of technology (A mobile phone maybe? Where would you stick that?) that would pass the location over to you.

To grasp the full horror of the situation, one should be aware that top UK cops have a whole IT unit, the Police Information Technology Organisation (PITO) available to them, and in that sense really ought to be a tad better informed than some technology-challenged couch potato who's been conned into chipping themselves as a protection against kidnappers. And given that - in the face of all the evidence - the Home Office remains mustard-keen on making the UK penal system totally tag-tastic, one really would expect a top cop to have some passing familiarity with the capabilities (and, ahem, size) of current tagging technology.

Jones suggests a "pilot scheme for the people who represent the highest risk and who would voluntarily want to go into this. You’d be surprised how many would be willing to submit to that kind of control," while the Times report suggests the chips "could also monitor the heart rate and blood pressure of the offender, alerting authorities to the possible imminence of an attack." We can't tell whether it was Jones or some unnamed loon who came up with this corker, but even if we didn't already know how catastrophic the monitoring of existing tagging systems is, it's clearly a non-starter. What evidence do we have that paedophiles undergo a werewolf-like transition immediately before striking? And if they do, to what extent do the vital signs differ from those produced by, say, running for a bus? Clearly, it's nuts.

The Times does however have some support from (aha...) a boffin from Reading University. Dr William Harwin of the cybernetics department tells us tags like this are already available, and that: "Similar tracking chips are already extensively used on pets and livestock." A swift scan of Harwin's work suggests that his area of expertise is robotics, haptic interfaces and remote fondling, so he's probably not as culpable as his colleague Captain Cyborg, who's been misleading a willing press about people chipping for years.

And another thing... Ken Jones' statement that "If we are prepared to track cars, why don't we track people?" shouldn't be allowed to pass unnoticed. It is actually Jones and ACPO who are prepared to track cars - those of you who might think you're part of "we" but have no recollection of being asked about the matter are slap-bang on the money. ACPO has been happily constructing and publicising a 24x7 vehicle movement database intended to cope with 50 million records a day by the end of this year. As it is doing this by simply adding more ANPR cameras and joining them and existing surveillance systems up to a network and database, it hasn't needed to ask either "we" or our elected representatives. But more on this shortly. ®

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