Under My Skin – Apocalyptic’ Microchips Implanted In Workers

A Swedish company has implanted microchips in its staff which allows them to use the photocopier, open security doors and even pay for their lunch.

What could pass for a dystopian vision of the workplace is almost routine at the Swedish start-up hub Epicenter. The company offers to implant its workers and start-up members with microchips the size of grains of rice that function as swipe cards: to open doors, operate printers or buy smoothies with a wave of the hand.

RFID_hand

It is hoped that eventually around 700 employees from the Epicenter hi tech office block in Stockholm may eventually have the chips implanted into the back of their hands.

The chips use radio-frequency identification (RFID) and are about the same size as a grain of rice.

The technology itself is not new: Such chips are used as virtual collar plates for pets, and companies use them to track deliveries. But never before has the technology been used to tag employees on a broad scale. Epicenter and a handful of other companies are the first to make chip implants broadly available.

And as with most new technologies, it raises security and privacy issues. Although the chips are biologically safe, the data they generate can show how often employees come to work or what they buy. Unlike company swipe cards or smartphones, which can generate the same data, people cannot easily separate themselves from the chips.

“Of course, putting things into your body is quite a big step to do, and it was even for me at first,” said Mesterton, saying he initially had his doubts.

Dr_Mark_Gasson_has_an_RFID_microchip_implanted_in_his_left_hand_by_a_surgeon_(March_16_2009)

The first reported experiments with an RFID implant were carried out in 1998 by the British scientist Kevin Warwick. His implant was used to open doors, switch on lights, and cause verbal output within a building. After nine days the implant was removed and has since been held in the Science Museum (London).

On 16 March 2009 British scientist Mark Gasson had an advanced glass capsule RFID device surgically implanted into his left hand. In April 2010 Gasson’s team demonstrated how a computer virus could wirelessly infect his implant and then be transmitted on to other systems. Gasson reasoned that with implanted technology the separation between man and machine can become theoretical because the technology can be perceived by the human as being a part of their body. Because of this development in our understanding of what constitutes our body and its boundaries he became credited as being the first human infected by a computer virus. He has no plans to remove his implant.

In 2002, the VeriChip Corporation (known as the “PositiveID Corporation” since November 2009) received preliminary approval from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to market its device in the U.S. within specific guidelines. The device received FDA approval in 2004, and was marketed under the name VeriChip or VeriMed. In 2007, it was revealed that similar implants may have caused cancer in hundreds of laboratory animals. The revelation had a devastating impact on the company’s stock price. Some time between May and July 2010, the Positive ID Corporation discontinued marketing the implantable human microchip.

The PositiveID Corporation (previously known as The VeriChip Corporation; Applied Digital Solutions, Inc.; and The Digital Angel Corporation) distributed the implantable chip known as the VeriChip or VeriMed until the product was discontinued in the second quarter of 2010. The company had suggested that the implant could be used to retrieve medical information in the event of an emergency, as follows: Each VeriChip implant contained a 16-digit ID number. This number was transmitted when a hand-held VeriChip scanner is passed within a few inches of the implant. Participating hospitals and emergency workers would enter this number into a secure page on the VeriChip Corporation’s website to access medical information that the patient had previously stored on file with the company.

Theoretically, a GPS-enabled chip could one day make it possible for individuals to be physically located by latitude, longitude, altitude, speed, and direction of movement. Such implantable GPS devices are not technically feasible at this time. However, if widely deployed at some future point, implantable GPS devices could conceivably allow authorities to locate missing persons and/or fugitives and those who fled from a crime scene. Critics contend, however, that the technology could lead to political repression as governments could use implants to track and persecute human rights activists, labor activists, civil dissidents, and political opponents; criminals and domestic abusers could use them to stalk and harass their victims; slaveholders could use them to prevent captives from escaping; and child abusers could use them to locate and abduct children.

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Hand photo:
By James Wisniewski – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52594188
Doctor photo:
By Paul Hughes – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39914306

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