Lawbreakers are sometimes found not guilty due to criminal insanity. But this guy’s only chance to beat the rap might come with a plea of high-tech stupidity.

According to news reports, a 40-year-old man was arrested recently in Janesville, Wis., and charged with stealing a computerized

tracking device that uses a global positioning system to keep track of prisoners on home detention.

A woman serving home detention temporarily placed the US$2,500 device outside a home. The brick-sized gadget has a built-in GPS satellite receiver. Prisoners wear a small transmitter on their ankles, and it acts as a 30-metre tether to the portable tracking device.

By the time the prisoner called to report the theft on a Monday night, the device had automatically notified the jail that it had been taken outside the prisoner’s home area. It was then tracked through the Internet. A trail of electronic dots led authorities to an apartment building, where the suspect was captured.

While this thief may only serve a few months of jail time, the embarrassment caused by his crime should last a lifetime.

Technology theft may not pay, but high tech identities might. This is called making your point with irony: A privacy group, seeking to highlight the lack of protection of sensitive personal data, says it bought the social security numbers of CIA chief George Tenet and other top U.S. officials for US$26.

The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights said it obtained on the Internet the social security numbers of Tenet, as well as those of Attorney General John Ashcroft and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao. The group said it was unable to obtain the data for U.S. President George W. Bush because he is too well known.

The numbers, available from various Web sites at prices ranging from US$26 to US$40 each, can be used to obtain other financial information, and in some cases, could be used to open up bank or credit accounts.

Suddenly, social security doesn’t sound all that secure.

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