The Mail on Sunday reminds us that
MPs demand record of child-tracking devices over paedophile fears
By JASON LEWIS
6th October 2007
New laws to regulate the use of high-tech child-tracking devices are being called for by MPs amid fears they could be used by paedophiles and stalkers.
The technology is aimed at parents wanting to keep tabs on their children after a series of high-profile child murders and the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.
UK based tracking systems would not have worked in Portugal, where that particular tragedy has occurred.
But politicians fear the devices could also be used by sexual predators to find their victims.
On Tuesday MPs are due to debate the Child Location Services Bill - which could make it illegal to operate the systems without a license.
Labour MP Judy Mallaber has the backing of several leading child-protection charities for the measures. Her Bill would restrict the operations of child-tracking services, such as the Teddyfone - a limited-function mobile phone that looks like a teddy bear - which can be used to locate a child.
Ms Mallaber said the technology could also be used by a violent partner to trace their victim by posting one of the devices to them, or be open to misuse by child-abusers.
She said: "Once the Bill becomes law every UK-based person employed to do such work will have their criminal record checked.
One of the early leaders in this field is ChildLocate, a company originally based in Iceland, within the European Economic Area, but not within the European Union. How can UK criminal records checks apply to foreign employees and consultants who have remote access to the sensitive databases ?
"What peace of mind can parents have if these services remain unregulated and open to strangers to misuse?
"We are sleepwalking into a world where jealous partners or obsessed stalkers could spy on you just by getting your phone number. We must establish controls and a licensing regime fast."
The Bill is also being backed by Tory MP Ian Taylor, who warned of the dangers of the new technology. He said: "In the right hands, location data - knowing where someone is - can be valuable and reassuring, but in the wrong hands such data is extremely dangerous.
We have been worried about Mobile Phone Location Based Services aimed at people who are worried about the safety of their children or of vulnerable adults, since they first started to be commercially available in the UK back in 2003 e.g. see our partially resolved worries about the initial launch of the ChildLocate service
Is this an attempt to re-introduce the failed 2006 Bill, or to re-introduce a new version, or simply to debate a motion aon the topic ?
Tuesday 9 October
The House will sit in Westminster Hall between 9.30am-2.00pm
Westminster Hall Private Members' Debates -
09.30-11.00 Government policy on speech, language and communications support in educational settings - John Bercow
11.00-12.30 Impact of health funding on health inequalities - Mr Neil Turner
12.30-13.00 Government IT and software procurement - Dr John Pugh
13.00-13.30 Licensing of child location services - Judy Mallaber
13.30-14.00 Future of general practice in Northamptonshire - Mr Philip Hollobone
The House will sit at 2.30pm
Presumably the Labour Government will again fail to support this Bill or motion.
There have been other web based, geographical mapped location based and tracking services aimed at the same market, which have also been launched in an insecure manner, and other online services supposedly aimed at "protecting" children, which through their web based insecurities, have also potentially done more harm than good.
These failings show that you do not have to have direct physical access to children in order to pose a threat to their safety, and that the electronic concentration of thousands of customers details could be a rich hunting ground for those seeking vulnerable targets.
The Bill seems to have the right sort of intent, but it could pose serious conflicting legal problems for the police, the primary telecommunications network providers and the third party Location Based Services companies, in how it might interact with the existing mess of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act , the Data Protection Act and Ofcom regulations, and possibly even international trade restriction laws.
Children under the age of 18 years,i.e. "legal minors", as mentioned in the Bill, can legally drive motor vehicles after passing their Driving Test at the age of 17 . Therefore this licensing scheme would also have to apply to all the vehicle tracking systems using GPS, Mobile Phone and ANPR technologies for National Road Pricing or the London Congestion Charge Mass Surveillance system, and the forthcoming eCall emergency location system supposedly to be fitted to all new vehicles sold in the European Union starting in 2009 etc.
All of these vehicle location systems use electronic communication systems (mobile phones and the internet), and give out a time / date / location position fix and / or travel pattern history, sometimes virtually indistinguishable from the ChildLocate type systems which this Bill is aimed at, and would appear to be covered by its wording.
Giving children the legal right to be removed from such tracking systems may well be desirable for the ChildLocate type services, but could be a big loophole in Road Pricing systems.
Somehow we doubt that such points will be mentioned in the "debate" on the Bill.
The Labour government, in its usual "must pretend to be seen to be doing something" deluge of criminal legislation, had the opportunity to introduce the safeguards which this Private Members Bill seeks into the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006" and the corresponding Protection of Vulnerable Groups Act (Scotland) Act 2007, but they smugly failed to bother to do so - see: