Out-Law / Your Daily Need-To-Know

Children to be chipped in Mexico

Out-Law News | 13 Oct 2003 | 12:00 am | 1 min. read

Parents and children in Mexico will soon be able to benefit from a new anti-kidnapping device, according to US tech company Applied Digital Solutions. Lost and kidnapped children can be tracked and rescued if they have the company's VeriChip implanted under their skin.

Mexico suffers high rates of kidnapping. According to the country's National Foundation for the Investigation of Lost and Kidnapped Children, 133,000 Mexican children disappeared over the last five years for reasons ranging from family problems to illegal organ trafficking. Around 1,000 of these children are thought to be victims of kidnapping.

The sole distributor of the VeriChip within Mexico, Solusat, has signed a co-operation agreement with the Foundation. A VeriKid programme is to be launched, offering a secure emergency identification system for lost, missing and kidnapped children.

According to ADS, the VeriChip is about the size of a grain of rice, and is the world's first "subdermal, radio frequency identification (RFID) microchip".

An RFID tag comprises a microchip and a tiny antenna that transmits the data from the chip to a reader. The reader is activated whenever the antenna comes into range and the data can be used to trigger an event – such as raising an alarm. Usually the range is no more than a few feet.

To work successfully, scanners will have to be located throughout the search area. Accordingly, Solusat and the Foundation are to work together, initially to distribute scanners to police stations and hospitals. ADS hopes to follow this with a roll-out to supermarkets, airports and bus stations.

There are obvious privacy concerns about chipping children. But the likely effectiveness of the technology is also questionable. In 2000, the number of children in Mexico was estimated at 34 million. How many would need to be chipped to deter kidnappers? If a child were chipped and kidnapped, what are the chances of him or her being brought within, say, less than 100 feet of a compatible scanner in a country with a footprint measuring almost two million square kilometres? And what are the chances of that signal leading to the recovery of the child? And if the chips do become popular, would a kidnapper hesitate to search for and remove the chip with a knife?