Wherever you go, they’re able to track you

March 25 was International Children’s Day and the issue of using positioning devices or even implanting chips in children to keep track of their whereabouts has come up again. The event that triggered discussion this time was the disappearance of 4-year-old Madeleine McCann from the Portuguese resort where she was staying with her family early this month. In Greece, the issue of using such devices is still in its infancy, although at least two companies have imported Global Positioning System (GPS) devices. «We are struck by the fact that around 20 GPS units have been sold in the last two months in Veria,» Nikos Halaris, who imported a finder device seven months ago, told Kathimerini. What prompted him to import such a product? «It was primarily the disappearance of Alex Meshivili,’ he admitted, referring to the schoolboy who disappeared on his way home from school in Veria in February 2006. Besides, his website notes, «The main aim of the product is to locate children who have gone missing, to hinder abductions and offer help in difficult situations when immediate intervention is needed.» The device, which is slightly larger than a box of matches, costs 270 euros, including VAT. Though Halaris notes there has not been interest in it from other parts of Greece. «People are cautious about its usefulness,» he thinks. «Maybe they see it as an easy way of tracking them.» The device is based on GPS, has access to Google Earth and can also be used as a cell phone in case of an emergency. It has a quick-dialing facility in the two-way voice communication, and can also make silent calls to any number, giving the time, date, the speed at which the person calling for help is moving and the precise location. It can also transmit the location by text message. The person can be found immediately, either through the firm’s software or the Internet. Similar systems have been imported for locating automobiles. There is a small market for devices that locate people, according to Haralambos Fretzayia, an executive of a firm dealing in computer applications that also promotes the devices. In the two years that his company has been in operation, he says that «some parents have made inquiries about getting the devices» but that «we are not planning to develop in that field because it is a very specialized market with a different level of business risk.» The firm also supplies companies that want the devices in order to keep track of and manage buses transporting children, workers and goods. For the past year it has been dealing with a large school in Attica whose school buses have all been fitted with the finder device. The systems also have WiFi wireless capability, which is useful in large office complexes, department stores and warehouses. Fretzayia says the simplest version costs 300 euros without VAT, while the most expensive is no more than 700 euros. A wider range of such products is available abroad, including special bracelets, hats, jackets and pyjamas with microchips sewn into them in such as way as not to be visible to a would-be abductor. But some companies have stopped supplying such products, afraid of legal action from parents if the device fails to work.

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