Jordan Webb can predict the exact time of day his head will start aching. If the 10-year-old lingers outside the Reynolds grocery store in Abingdon, England, past 5 p.m., a small black device latched onto the storefront and operated on a timer will emit a high-pitched sound that makes the boy’s skull feel like it’s popping. “It sounds like ‘Eeeeeeeek’ and gives me a big headache,” said Jordan. Jordan is referring to the Mosquito, a $975 transmitter designed to disperse young loiterers by making a loud humming noise that most people older than 25 can’t hear.
The Mosquito has sparked a new sort of buzz in Britain, this time among political and civil rights groups that say the device is discriminatory and treats young people as second-class citizens. Others have worried that the Mosquito is the next step in Britain’s Big Brother society. Britons are among the most photographed, filmed, speed-checked and monitored people in the world, thanks to an interlocking system of computerized government devices. The device has sold about 3,500 units in Britain since its introduction in 2006. About 200 have been sold in the United States, mainly to schools and convenience stories.