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Judge Dredd 'Black Box' recorder/spy kit for guns unveiled

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But 'Black Boxes' aren't really for maintenance - they're for the subsequent investigation

So far, so uncontroversial. But FN seem to hint at other uses to which the gizmo might be put - indeed the choice of name offers a broad hint that investigations following a shooting or a firefight might make use of the records held in weapons used. Monitoring might go further than this, with the company saying:

The FN Black Box can also communicate useful information to the chain of command during a mission. It contains the identification number of the weapon and, thus, can indirectly identify the soldier. When coupled to a GPS, it can transmit its identification and localization data to the upper level of the command through the communication equipment of the soldier.

Most current and planned digital-soldier rigs already include GPS, in some cases enhanced by the use of other navigation aids. It seems that with the addition of Black Box, commanders may know not just how many shots their troops fire and when, but where they were as they did so - perhaps in real time. The scheme is somewhat reminiscent of the idea, sometimes suggested for US police, of automatic gun cameras intended to record the target of every shot fired for use in subsequent investigations.

Fans of Judge Dredd will recall that his personal sidearm, the Lawgiver pistol, had capabilities akin to this in some versions - perhaps going as far as the tagging of every round fired with the user's DNA signature. (Though in the movie, even this level of record-keeping didn't suffice to protect an innocent Dredd from being busted by his fellow judges for a crime he hadn't committed.)

FN don't mention DNA bullet-tagging specifically, but they do say that the Black Box is intended to form just part of their planned "Armatronics™" kit, "a fully integrated system of electronic solutions mounted on or inside a weapon. Additional enhancements for increased functionality to the system are on the horizon as new technologies are explored."

The introduction of such systems might be used as much to keep tabs on cops or troops as to help them out with logistics and maintenance. And Black Box guvmint gunbutt spy modules required in every licensed weapon, doubtless remotely accessible by federal busybodies, would seem like a vaguely plausible bogeyman to disturb the sleep of many a righteous, free, gun-toting American.

Even more chillingly for those who see personal weapons as a guarantee of freedom from government oppression, FN speak of the Black Box as a "weapon manager", hinting that feds, military superiors etc. might even be able to disable a gun remotely. ®

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