Monday, January 14, 2008

Britain's Prisoners to be implanted with tracking chips. American cops envious.

clockwork orange implantable microchip UK Britain human rfidViddy well, my droogies, this is how it begins. It's said that liberty is first lost in prisons and public schools. The Independent reports that Brits have taken that to heart and, in a scheme that would have Hitler's SS drooling with envy, plan to surgically implant RFID chips under the skin of thousands of offending citizens so they can be tracked like cattle. A Ministry of Justice official confirms that the department hopes to extend the range of the chips through satellite tracking similar to the system used to trace stolen vehicles. All options, and British civil liberties, are on the table.

"We have... worried about the practicalities and the ethics,” a senior minister said, “but when you look at the challenges facing the criminal justice system, it's time has come." They'll set ethics aside if it only affects their underclass. Ken Jones, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) wants to use chips and GPS technology to monitor and keep sex offenders from "forbidden" zones like primary schools. This is a ploy to gain approval by first implanting only the worst of the worst. Afterwards, wider use will be less likely to outrage the public.

There are objections. Shami Chakrabarti, director of the National Council for Civil Liberties, said: "If the Home Office doesn't understand why implanting a chip is worse than an ankle bracelet, they don't need a human-rights lawyer; they need a common-sense bypass. Degrading offenders in this way will do nothing for their rehabilitation and nothing for our safety, as some will inevitably find a way round this new technology." Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, said the proposal would not make his members' lives easier and would degrade their clients. "The system works well enough as it is. Knowing where offenders are does not mean you know what they are doing. This is the sort of daft idea that comes up from the department every now and then, but tagging people the way we tag pets cannot be the way ahead. Treating people like pieces of meat does not represent an improvement in the system."

Who will profit? The parent company of US market leader VeriChip Corporation has sold animal radio tags for more than a decade. It claims its chips are used at more than 5,000 healthcare, security, government and industrial locations, and has sold 2,000 chips for implantation in humans.

Where else is this making inroads? In the USA, the states of Wisconsin and North Dakota have banned human-implanted ID chips, and California may soon be the third to do so. An April 2005 post on the website Prison Planet points out that the global aspect of RFID chipping isn't well known but claims it's used in Russia, Switzerland, China, Ecuador, Italy, Spain, Argentina, Canada, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil, Germany, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, Africa, and South Korea. Not all of those societies are known for their stellar human rights records. Will British citizens be pleased to join their company?