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Electronic Eyes to Track Children

Marian T. Horvat, Ph.D.

In a suburb north of Texas, 28,000 students of the Spring Independent School District are being equipped with computer chips that will track their whereabouts. Each student carries an ID badge with computer chips that are read when the students get on and off buses. The information is fed by wireless phone to police and school administrators (New York Times, November 17, 2004).

A student scanning her computer surveillance badge

A student scans her computer surveillance badge each time she enters or exits the bus
It’s the same technology used by pet owners who embed chips in their pets to identify them if they are lost, the same procedure companies and ranchers are utilizing to track pallets of merchandise and livestock. Now available, so it appears, to apprehensive post-9-11 parents for tracking their children in case they get lost or kidnapped.

Not that many students in this Spring District have been kidnapped. In fact, to date, none have. No big problems either with getting lost for this set of children whose suburban moms shepherd them to ball practice and music lessons in RVs. But this is, mind you, a safeguard, a preventive measure. After all, you can’t be too careful today.

Those who sold the system to the Texas parents explained the many conveniences of the surveillance system. Police officials will be able to reassure frantic parents that their child went to a Boy Scout meeting instead of coming home as expected. The surveillance officer simply enters the child’s ID number. Then he checks the icon on a computer screen and identifies the location. In a few minutes, he reports: “Your son is at Scoutmaster McMillen’s house at 237 Park Street.”

It works, so long as the student is carrying his ID badge. It seems to me in case of a real kidnapping, the first thing the bandit would get rid of is the surveillance badge, then carry on with the crime. Another Pandora's Box could also open. With so many competent hackers who can break and enter the most sophisticated computer programs, why couldn’t they also they crack this new program to track a potential kidnapping victim? A child wearing a surveillance chip is good prey for the computer-smart kidnapper. So, the safety practice could actually backfire.

I have a more serious objection to such electronic devices. In the 1970’s when I took advertising classes at Kansas University School of Journalism, I was taken aback to see the widespread use of subliminal advertising. With improved technology, modern procedures have become more subtle and the invasive potential in daily life much greater. If police officials can receive signals from chips carried by a person, why couldn’t they or someone else also send subliminal messages via the apparatus as well? That is, the supposed security device can have the very opposite effect: no one wearing it could be secure from subliminal mind-control techniques.

I was surprised to see Texans testing this electronic surveillance eye on their children. Most of the Texans I know are a different breed of folk: feisty, suspicious, fiercely proud of their independence and rights. The Texan dads I know equip their daughters with cell phones and their sons with guns, and tell them to use them if they get in trouble. No electronic surveillance cards for them, that’s only a step away from embedded chips.

A tiny VeriChip


The VeriChip, above, has been approved by the FDA and is already available for various usages.

Below, a man is implanted with the Verichip to confirm his health history and identity.

A man being implanted with a VeriChip

And indeed it is. The chips that can be implanted in one’s body are ready and available. In October, the FDA approved use of a RFID (radio frequency identification) chip that could be implanted under a patient’s skin and would carry a number that linked to the patient’s records. Applied Digital Solutions, a company in Palm Beach, FL, makes the VeriChips, 11-millimeter RFID tags that are implanted in the fatty tissue below the right triceps.

Applied Digital Solutions is already advertising their microchip, the height of a dime, claiming it has potential to be used in a variety of security, financial, and other applications. Here's how it can work for security purposes. The implanted microchip is scanned and checked in a database. If all checks out well, the person wearing it can enter a secured room or complete a financial transaction. It can also be used to store medical information in patients and to track criminals in prisons or on parole. The possibilities for the product are unlimited. The future resolution to immigration problems? Behavior therapy for the obese?

The Palm Beach company is predicting a grand future in the embedded chip idea. But right now, they’re going slowly, focusing on the wearable devices like the ones introduced in the Spring Independent School District. The first and most important step is to accustom the public to the idea of surveillance. Get children used to the idea of being scanned coming and going. Convince parents that they, and not Big Brother, are still the ones in control. Slowly work away at the notion that implanting computer chips is something unholy and anti-natural.

Prudent Catholics parents should be suspicious of such experiments like the one being conducted in the Spring school. They should realize there is something greater to be fearful of than the physical safety of their children, and that is the loss of parental rights. Already parents have seen legislation and government programs that rob the family of its independence by replacing the authority of the father with that of the State. Parents are fighting now to educate their children as their religion, conscience, and traditions indicate right to them. It stands to reason they should be concerned about more controls, more surveillance, more scrutiny imposed with the supposed aim of protecting the physical safety of their children.

If you’re worried about your children’s safety, the old fashioned method of keeping track of them still works – keep an eye on them. Have them check in with you, not with you and Big Brother. And what about another good traditional practice - training children to be vigilant and shrewd in face of danger? This kind of formation develops strong, self-reliant, and militant men and women. The surveillance chips, carried or embedded, has the effect of transforming the thinking child into a kind of robot-mind, where the child always feels controlled by an outside will.

It seems probable to me that the “wearable” surveillance devices are preparing mentalities of youth for the next step, the embedded chips. The technology is here, it’s just public opinion that is not quite ready. But it won’t be hard for the kindergartener accustomed to a “surveillance badge” today to be convinced that it is in her best interests tomorrow to upgrade it with an embedded chip, which can’t be lost or thrown away.

Posted November 21, 2004

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