/ Technology

Microchips: a step too far into dystopia?

We chip our cats and dogs, but what about ourselves? We discuss if it could ever be a good idea to let your employer microchip you.

We’re used to the concept of microchipping our pets: a tiny chip not much bigger than a grain of rice is injected under their skin, usually under the scruff of the animal’s neck – but what about microchipping humans?

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Last week’s story that a Swedish company, Biohax, was apparently ‘in talks with a number of UK legal and financial firms’ to microchip employees of the un-named organisations looks like it was designed to get people talking about them with the aim, presumably, of boosting sales.

Apparently it’s chipped around 4,000 people since it launched five years ago.

Chips with everything

I suspect we’re a long way from a dystopian future in which new employees are subjected to being chipped. The Telegraph, which was the first publication to report Biohax’s press release, itself fell foul of angry workers who objected strongly to being tracked by sensors installed at their desks.

Telegraph bosses had to back down and withdraw the sensors after protests.

The technology in such chips is straightforward and useful: you can write a small chunk of information to it which can then be read by a scanner. The use case for pets of course is to record their owner’s details, helping ensure lost or injured pets can be returned home.

The chips, which use passive RFID technology, can also be used to identify the animal to let them in through a catflap: my cat uses one of these catflaps, which keeps her nemesis, a huge ginger moggy, out of my flat.

The chips are also used to track farm animals, helping farmers manage and keep track of their stock.

Keeping track of humans

But is it really such a bad idea? Rather than issue an employee with an access card they could lose, a chip under their skin can perform the same function, allowing access to workplaces, as well as containing the details you might otherwise have on a business card.

The BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones had a microchip implanted under the skin of his hand three years ago, and it’s still there.

‘I have to search a bit for it,’ he told me when I asked him about it the other day, ‘but I can still feel it. Did it hurt? Yes, it did hurt a bit,’ he said.

But what would happen after you leave a company? Are the chips any use or would you have to get it cut out? You can write to the chips yourself, although that’s not entirely straightforward. Cellan-Jones says that he added his contact details to his chip so that it can act as a kind of high-tech business card.

Although I am often an early adopter of tech, I’m not in a hurry to have myself chipped, and I’ll be among the first to the barricades if in some bleak dystopian future an employer or government wants to compel ordinary humans to be chipped.

But given the potential usefulness of the technology, what do you think? Would you be comfortable with being chipped? Would you ask your employees to submit to being chipped? Is this part of a future we should all get used to?

Comments

Delivery companies track their vans to aid their businesses, criminals are ankle tagged to curtail and track movement. Tagging a human permanently for anything other than criminality is not something 99.9% of us would tolerate. It could be a sentence handed down by court for serious offences but what is put in can be removed and, unlike pets, we would know where it was, so why bother in the first place. Stupid idea. Even a repressive state would see this as a waste of time. Sooner or later jamming devices would be available too. We are tagged enough already with phones and other GPS items. It’s not even worth getting indignant about.

I seem to recall something sci-fi about removing tracker chips…

youtube.com/watch?v=nAzVzeXGTGM

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Hi Duncan. I had a look and can’t see any criticism when you brought it up – looks like Kate thought it was a good idea so decided to run with it for a separate convo 🙂

Sounds great having your body as a key fob never loose your access to your house. I suppose it’s better than having you thumb cut off or your eyeball pulled out because you have all the latest stuff. I suppose they will just frog March you to your house instead and stand you in front of the scanner. Then rob your house of all your gadgets.

I can see the advantage of having your medical history on a chip should end up in hospital and unable to communicate for whatever reason; it might also be useful for anyone with dementia who is liable to wander. However the crucial factor is control, the individual must have full control of what information goes onto the chip and how it is used. This could be difficult because anyone you pass in the street might be concealing a hand held reader.

When it comes to employers though, absolutely not.

Many of us will have used some form of security card to gain access to buildings or parts of buildings. It saves carrying a large bunch of keys and the card can be updated to change access privileges when necessary or inactivated if lost. The only benefit of an implanted chip is that it cannot be passed on to someone else, whereas this is easy with a card. Even with a card, the movements of an individual could be tracked without their permission, which concerns me.

Implanting chips is something that is easy to do but that does not mean that it is right to use the technology.

Can I become an everlasting card with a miniature human chipped into it?

It’s a big no no from me.
Cats dogs can’t speak when there lost. Dead bodies can’t but more often than not they find out who they where. These chips will no where you are 24 /7
Every shop cinema so on will know who you are one day. They will link up to social media with it. They will spam you every chance they get with products you have looked at. We cannot let it happen.
What happens when someone else gets your info because it won’t just stop at your place of work it will have medical records adresses and everything else that they want if not now but sometime later. They are planning for a one world government and total control of us. It may seem harmless but where will it end in the future with the add ons no doubt they can put on.maybe an extreme view but how about a kill switch.

Anything is possible and if not now it will be.

Will the rich and powerfull have it will mps police and soldiers

Sian Jenkins says:
29 November 2018

A loud NO. This technology will take away your privacy and your freedom. Frighteningly possible that advances in technology will eventually allow the chip to control you and, if necessary, ‘dispense’ with you, through connection to 5G and your microwave pulsating smart meter – microwave weapons are apparently already being used as crowd control. (Do some research ref. a park area in the Hague, recently, where a multitude of birds dropped dead out of the trees and it was found that 5G was being tested nearby. The pulsating microwaves probably affected the birds’ hearts). Sounds like fantasy… welcome to George Orwell’s dystopia.

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This comment was removed at the request of the user