Thursday, January 24, 2008

The End Is Nigh

If you're of an eagerly apocalyptic bent, this story
should give you a little shiver of glee.

The UK Ministry of Justice is investigating the use of satellite and radio-wave technology to monitor criminals. Only this time they're not talking about ankle or wrist bracelets, no that technology is yesterday's news. What they'd like to do, if no one minds too terribly much what-what pip-pip, is surgically implant radio frequency identification (RFID) chips under offenders' skin and track them via GPS.

We have wanted to take advantage of this technology for several years, because it seems a sensible solution to the problems we are facing in this area," a senior minister said .. "We have looked at it and gone back to it and worried about the practicalities and the ethics, but when you look at the challenges facing the criminal justice system, it's time has come."

A multimillion-pound pilot of satellite monitoring of offenders was shelved last year after a report revealed many criminals simply ditched the ankle tag and separate portable tracking unit issued to them. The "prison without bars" project also failed to track offenders when they were in the shadow of tall buildings.

The Independent on Sunday has now established that ministers have been assessing the merits of cutting-edge technology that would make it virtually impossible for individuals to remove their electronic tags.

The tags, injected into the back of the arm with a hypodermic needle, consist of a toughened glass capsule holding a computer chip, a copper antenna and a "capacitor" that transmits data stored on the chip when prompted by an electromagnetic reader.

Bah, I say. Does the Ministry of Justice never watch movies? Wise readers will recall that in 87% of all futuristic sci-fi flicks at least one character bloodily rips the Evil Overlord's implant from his/her molar/sinus cavity/neck, typically using a dull pocket knife.

Not to mention the whole IMPLANTING THE BODIES OF HUMAN BEINGS WITH TRACKING DEVICES issue. The world has gone loco, friends. Prepare for the worst.

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