Exclusive: 3G could aid paedophiles, experts warn Pt II

Location-based services could pose a threat

The Home Office confirmed that there is no government committee looking into the potential dangers of 3G. A spokesman said: "It's all in the pot, 3G is a new development. The National Criminal Intelligence (NCIS) Service seems to be taking the lead with this."

NCIS refused to comment on their involvement in any 3G related investigations for reasons of secrecy.

One government appointed body, the Internet Crime Forum, has been investigating Internet chatrooms for the past 18 months. A final report is expected this month.

Ruth Dixon, deputy chief executive of the Internet Watch Foundation, has been involved in working with the Forum and admits that the implications of 3G have yet to be considered. "We haven't looked into 3G -- the impact that this technology could have upon chatrooms has only been referred to in passing."

Lesley Verne, director of Childwatch International, said she was "horrified" that no one was doing any research into the potential abuse of 3G by paedophiles. She expressed particular concern over the ability to maintain permanent contact with a child: "Follow-up contact with the child could be catastrophic. I think it's completely inappropriate that no one is governing this."

IDC's Sheedy is confident that children will be big on the 3G uptake. He expects 3G's ability to capture video to be popular among younger consumers: "A kid in a shopping mall trying on clothes will be able to send a picture of themselves to a friend sitting in MacDonalds." He also expects children to utilise the location devices by setting up buddy lists, for instance.

"A kid might give access to [location information] a group of friends, but they probably won't want their parents to know where they are," he said.

Many organisations feel that the implications of 3G are too far off to be given any current consideration. The non-governmental Consumers Association confesses that 3G is too new an issue for it to have looked into, despite concerns over criminal use of the technology.

Alan Stephens, head of digital services at the Association, said: "Mobile phones are always used more by young people who are more naive to the dangers. The 3G always-on connection will also mean that people use it as an exclusive mode of communication." Stephens hopes that parents will be able to refuse permission for video links and location devices to be enabled on their children's 3G phones.

Roland Perry, chief executive at the London Internet Exchange, argues that it is inappropriate to look into the implications of a technology that won't be in place for another two years. "The likelihood of these issues being the same by the time 3G phones have been deployed is close to zero," Perry insisted. "3G is a whole lifetime away, the chatroom needs solutions for today's technology. When the new technology is phased in we'll look at it."

Perry questions the likelihood of children having access to 3G mobiles owing to their initial expense. He also argues that the technology for positioning devices and full motion video is hugely theoretical, particularly with early devices. He admits however that 3G technology will be vastly more traceable that current devices, with all users having a direct billing relationship with their provider. Users will also have an assigned IP address.

"This will be bad news for the bad guys, society will need to come to a view on how traceable people need to be, and decide on how much of this information should be available to third parties."

Take me back to Pt I: 3G could aid paedophiles

Are your children in danger on the Internet? Find out with the Web of Porn Special

Have your say instantly, and see what others have said. Click on the TalkBack button and go to the ZDNet News forum.

Let the editors know what you think in the Mailroom. And read other letters.