Editorial: Thinking the unthinkable

A Wisconsin law that went into effect last week would probably be considered by most people to be a no-brainer. The law prohibits the implantation of any kind of microchip into a person's body without his consent. Who could fault legislation that serves as a proactive measure to safeguard personal privacy in the face of emerging intrusive identification and tracking technologies?

I could. And here's why.

A few weeks ago, at a dinner during Computerworld's Mobile & Wireless World conference in Orlando, I had the privilege of being seated next to one of the Best Practices award winners. In the course of our dinner conversation, we were talking about our kids, and he told me that he lost his teenage daughter in a car accident not too long ago. She had fallen asleep at the wheel. "Every parent's worst nightmare," he said.

"That's not my worst nightmare," I told him. "My worst nightmare is for one of my kids to go missing and to never be found." He understood and nodded. Not knowing would be maddening.

Losing a child in any sense is unthinkable, and yet it happens to parents every day. They think about it every day thereafter for the rest of their lives. Our worst nightmares can happen. So maybe we should think about what we can do to avoid that before it's too late.

There's nothing a parent can really do to prevent a car accident that results in a nightmarish phone call from a police officer. But if my daughter, Shelly, who will be 15 next month, went missing, I'm not sure I'd be able to convince myself that I had done everything in my power to make sure I could get her back.