Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Frustration

We've been putting in the hours on the growing range of devices that track children's whereabouts. In particular, there is a burgeoning market in mobile phone tracking that allegedly gives parents 'peace of mind'. The idea is that a parent can log on to a website and find the exact location of their child at any given moment. They can even feed in predetermined routes that their child must follow, and the system will alert them to any deviation from it.

As I'm sure we've muttered before now, one only needs a moment's thought to spot the fallacy: the system merely tells a parent where the child's mobile phone is. But it also gives other people that information, too.

A particularly worrying aspect of this system is that the servcie providers are currently unlicensed and unregulated, save by a voluntary code of practice, so we thought that an amendment to the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill to provide some level of regulation wouldn't come amiss.

The amendment didn't make it. DfES under-secretary, Parmjit Dhanda, offered the view that:
"The mobile phone network operators and location service providers have acted to put in place a code of practice, covering passive location services, using mobile phone technology. As I pointed out in Committee, it is a new sector and we would need to consult on and assess the risk presented by individuals working in those services before looking to amend the definition of regulated activity."
'New sector?' We were asked for our first media comment on mobile phone tracking around 3 years ago. How old does a sector need to be before the government begins to regulate it? Given the vast range of people and activities drawn into regulation by the Bill, child location trackers seem to be a rather glaring omission.

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