The Daily Telegraph has a disturbing report about an alleged compulsory plan to insert RFID microchip transponders in all dogs in the UK, and Yet Another National Database of human names, addresses and telephone numbers, which will not solve the underlying problems, and which will pose a Privacy and Security risk to millions of innocent people.
All dogs in Britain will be fitted with microchips which contain their owner's details, under cross party plans designed to track family pets.
By Andrew Hough
Published: 7:00AM BST 28 Sep 2009
Owners will be forced to install the microchip containing a barcode that can store their pet's name, breed, age and health along with their own address and phone number.
barcode ? Surely not ! How exactly do you read one of those opticaly, when it is implanted under the skin and fur ?
Presumably the author means an implantable RFID transponder chip
This sort of glass encapsulated RFID transponder chip implant, designed for animal tagging, uses a low frequency of around 125KHz, with a reading range of about a metre. High or microwave frequency, faster data rate, longer range RFIDchips etc. are of no use for implants, as those radio frequencies are strongly absorbed by living tissue.
The barcode's details would then be stored on a national database which local councils could access in a bid to easily identify an owner's pet.
What is the justification for this being a national database ?
Why not local Council based databases, with the minimum amount of data needed i.e. just the RFID chip serial number and a description of the dog, but with no names and addresses of humans whatsoever, except of those people who have actually reported a lost dog ?
The new scheme, supported by the Tories and Labour, is designed to curb the trade in stolen dogs, prevent the use of animals in anti-social or violent incidents and reduce the record number of stray dogs being found on British streets.
It is ludicrous to suggest that drug dealers or those involved in dog fighting etc. will ever submit their real details to such a National Dog Owners Database.
If your dog gets stolen by professional thieves, then it will be easily "re-chipped", or "un-chipped" . There is no economic incentive for them to do so at present, but as soon as compulsion is inflicted, the criminals will easily tool up.
Unscrupulous "puppy farm" breeders of pedigree dogs and dog thieves have been forging dog "identity papers" for hundreds of years, and this scheme will not prevent that either.
If your dog gets lost and you have had it chipped, then it is fair enough to include some minimal contact details and the RFID chip serial number, when you report it lost or stolen, but that does not justify creating another insecure national database containing the details of millions of dog owners who have not lost their dogs.
If an owner failed to insert a chip, at an estimated cost of about £10, they could be fined or face the possibility of having their pet taken away.
Why will it be any more successful than the compulsory Dog Licence, which was abolished in 1987 under the then Conservative government, since it was unenforceable in practice, without an army of petty spies and snoopers, with around half of the dogs in the UK not having been registered. ?
The chip would be installed once but if the owner's personal details change the information on the database can be changed.
The chip, said to be the size of a rice granule, is implanted into the pet either behind the ears or between the shoulder blades.
Experts say the procedure is relatively painless for the animal and is over in a matter of seconds.
Not a "barcode " then.
Most pet and farm animal tagging systems only have enough memory to store a serial number in the RFID chip capsule. - it is a bit hard to read an optical barcode which has been inserted inside the animal.
There is no way of protecting any human name, address and telephone number data unless the chip is at least as complex and as expensive as that in the biometric Passports or the planned ID Cards.
The plans, to be unveiled at the next election, were backed by animal charities, who say it was a quick, cheap and painless way of keeping tabs on animals.
So this is really more about controlling humans than about controlling dogs, a National Identity Register by stealth, for the millions of pet owners in the UK.
Who exactly is planning to set up this National Database ?
How much will it cost ?
How will it ever be secure against corrupt insider attacks ?
Who will regulate it ?
Who will enforce the mandatory registration aspect of it ?
What actual cost benefit will there be ?
The Labour government has never managed to come up with satisfactory answers for their National Identity Register scheme, so there is little chance that a compulsory National Dog Owners Register would be any different.
The scheme, which is already being successfully piloted by the Conservative-run Wandsworth Council, would be phased in gradually to provide enough time for owners to comply with the changes.
The south London council has made it compulsory for its council tenants with dogs to microchip their animals and to place details on a database and has urged other residents to ensure their animal is fitted with such a device.
Wandsworth Council's website gives some figure for their Dog Control Service
For over fifteen years, we have:
* dealt with over 6,000 stray or dangerous dogs;
* prosecuted nearly 800 offenders for dog-related offences;
i.e. an average, only 400 dogs a year , the vast majority of which have not been identified through their RFID implants,
How is this a proper pilot for a national scale database scheme of all dog owners, not just those living in council houses ?
Remember that The Control of Dogs Order 1992 still applies, so you are still legally bound to have a collar on your dog, with your name and address on it (and optionally your telephone number) - this is in addition to any RFID tag
Wearing of collars by dogs
2.--(1) Subject to paragraph (2) below, every dog while in a highway or in a place of public resort shall wear a collar with the name and address of the owner inscribed on the collar or on a plate or badge attached to it.
A dog collar is of more use in helping with lost or stray dogs than an RFID chip, as it does not need special equipment to read it.
There are also several competing commercial pet chipping technology solutions available in the marketplace, some of which offer their own databases.e.g. PetTrack
None of these are standardised and so one manufacturer's scanning equipment is not necessarily capable of reading RFID chips from all of their rivals.
See also the controversies surrounding the VeriChip "spychips". VeriChip and their various re-branded subsidiaries have been losing money for years, trying to convince people that this technology is somehow morally or ethically suitable for human implantation.
Are any of the Labour and Conservative politicians lobbying for this mandatory national system linked with any of these companies, whose businesses would be greatly expanded by any move towards compulsion, or to a national standard based on one manufacturer's technology ?
Unfortunately the Labour Government seems to be treating human beings just like animals, and is trying to snoop on and collect our personal details, our "life events" history, our changes of address and our transport movements. The Conservatives should not follow their example with ill thought out "national database" plans touted as solutions to local problems.