Parents look to microchip children
LONDON, England -- Worried UK parents are asking to have tracking microchips implanted into their children following the murders of two 10-year-old girls, a cybernetics expert says.
Scientist Kevin Warwick from Reading University, west of London, says parents can keep track of their children with a tiny microchip implant in the arm or stomach.
Such a chip could prevent an abduction from becoming a murder, he says.
"A number of families have contacted me after the murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman with the possibility of using an implant for their own daughter," Warwick told Reuters. ((Full story)
The bodies of the two friends were found in remote woodland two weeks after they went missing from their home town of Soham in eastern England on August 4.
One family, the Duvals, has offered up their 11-year-old daughter Danielle as the first guinea pig to test the electronic tag, which Warwick said he hopes to perfect sometime before Christmas.
The issue is set to become a controversial one in Britain with parents welcoming the idea, but civil liberties group expected to protest at the "big brother" possibilities of the tags being exploited either by the authorities or illegally.
Robotics scientist Warwick is a controversial figure already in Britain, gaining fame after he wired his own nervous system to a computer in an experiment he hopes will eventually give paralysed people more control over their own bodies.
"There are several options, including the possibility of using a mobile phone network to transmitting a signal and linking it to a global positioning system," he said.
The operation would involve implanting a small transmitter about one inch long into the child's arm or stomach, Warwick says.
"A potential abductor wouldn't know the child had the device and it could be switched off to sleep mode when it wasn't needed to conserve its battery," he added.
Watches that perform a similar function are already commercially available in the United States, but they can be too easily removed and discarded, Warwick said.
Danielle's mother Wendy told Britain's Daily Mirror newspaper: "After the news of Holly and Jessica we sat down as a family and discussed what we could do... I know nothing is ever foolproof but we believe the microchip will go a long way to protecting her."
A spate of recent abductions in the United States have also put parents there on edge as they worry about their children, but Warwick believes it is for society to decide if a microchip implant is the ethical way to combat such fears.
"There are of course many more questions to be asked and I suspect there will be objections to an implant, but if the general trend in Britain is in favour of such an operation it will be ready to go by Christmas," he said.
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