Microchips for Humans: A Precursor to a Dark Surveillance State?

Let the long Orwellian nightmare begin: RFID microchips for humans is becoming a thing.

Microchips are very useful for tracking things, emphasis on “things”: They’re commonly used for telematics and are injected into our beloved pets, for instance, so we can find them if they wander off. Amazon is working with local law enforcement to use them to combat patio theft of packages. Etc. But “chipping” humans seems like a slippery surveillance slope, doesn’t it?

Not according to a small company in Wisconsin called Three Square Market, which is partnering with a Swedish firm called Biohax to roll out a voluntary program to insert chips into its employees.

The chip, which is the size of a grain of rice, is injected between the employee’s thumb and index finger. Once in, they can link it up to their bank accounts and work profiles, and do cool stuff like paying for food in the cafeteria with a wave of the hand.  

But what about, um, “future applications”?

Alessandro Acquisti, a professor of information technology and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College, warned about invasiveness creep: Such technology could be “used to track the length of lunch breaks, for instance, without their consent or even their knowledge,” he told the New York Times. “Once they are implanted, it’s very hard to predict or stop a future widening of their usage.”

Yet, far from being concerned about Black Mirror-like dark consequences, intended or not, employees are skipping to the nurse’s table in droves to have this done. As of late July, more than 50 out of 80 employees had volunteered to go under the needle.

Sam Bengtson, a software engineer, gushed to the New York Times about being on the cutting edge: “It was pretty much 100% yes right from the get-go for me,” he said. “In the next five to 10 years, this is going to be something that isn’t scoffed at so much, or is more normal. So, I like to jump on the bandwagon with these kind of things early, just to say that I have it.”

In other words, one of these days, when we’ve all been chipped and the government is monitoring our bathroom breaks, sexual activity and how many ads we watch, this guy will be kicking back with a government-approved beer, telling his buddies during his government-approved downtime that he was chipped before chipping was cool.

That’s worth it, right?

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