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How Implanting Microchips in Humans Is Invasion of Privacy

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That question is set to divide millions of people in the 2020s

And perhaps billions of people in the 2030s and 2040s. Just as the world begins to understand the many benefits of the Internet of Things (IoT), but also learns about the ‘dark side’ from ‘smart everything,’ including our connected cities, we are now on the cusp of small chips causing major new privacy disagreements. As individuals try to grapple with the privacy and security implications that come with IoT, big data, public- and private-sector data breaches, social media sharing, GDPR, a new California privacy law, along with data ownership and “right to be forgotten” provisions, along comes a set of technologies that will become much more personal than your smartphone or cloud storage history.

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Microchip implants in humans employ radio-frequency identification (RFID), which uses electromagnetic fields to identify the microchips. Each microchip contains a unique ID number that is linked to information on a database. In 32M’s case, the chip contains an employee’s general information such as name, age, weight, position in the company and credit card information. Because their whole profile is logged into the company’s database, this would allow 32M employees with the microchip to enter doors without identification cards and to buy lunch with a mere swipe of their hands. In general, microchips make everyday tasks more convenient by replacing badges for workplaces, tickets for trains and credit cards for purchases. The main advantage of these chips is that they can never run out of battery or lost. With all the potential benefits of the microchips, however, there are also several drawbacks. Implanting microchips into humans may seem like far-fetched science-fiction, but on Aug. 1, Wisconsin technology company Three Square Market (32M) made it a reality by injecting microchips into the hands of their employees. The procedure was voluntary, with more than 50 out of the company’s 85 employees deciding to get the microchips. The other employees who were wary of implanting chips into their hands decided instead to opt for a ring that would serve the same purpose as the microchip. Others decided that the microchips were not necessary at all. The company hoped to provide more conveniences for their employees at work through microchips. They anticipated that microchips in humans will eventually be used everywhere, and hoped to be at the forefront of this cutting edge technology. Microchips are still very new in the field of technology, and it is too early to tell if it will become prevalent in the future. Although microchips may make lives easier, they are also invasive and unethical. Microchip implants in humans employ radio-frequency identification (RFID), which uses electromagnetic fields to identify the microchips

Each microchip contains a unique ID number that is linked to information on a database. In 32M’s case, the chip contains an employee’s general information such as name, age, weight, position in the company and credit card information. Because their whole profile is logged into the company’s database, this would allow 32M employees with the microchip to enter doors without identification cards and to buy lunch with a mere swipe of their hands. In general, microchips make everyday tasks more convenient by replacing badges for workplaces, tickets for trains and credit cards for purchases. The main advantage of these chips is that they can never run out of battery or lost. With all the potential benefits of the microchips, however, there are also several drawbacks.

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Clinical trials have already begun in Europe and are about to begin in the U.S. An investigational device exemption has been granted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). If the device is approved, it would not be difficult to envisage a facile transition to SmartDevice or a similar microchip being implanted into humans alone (Betsy Siino, 1993). In fact, steps in that direction have already been made. According to one source, Hughes Aircraft has submitted a read-write device for carrying a person's medical history for FDA approval. Alhough the device can be read from only about a foot away, with the addition of a battery, it could be read at greater distances. As mentioned, a patent discloses a microchip applied to the tooth of a human or animal. Identification is accomplished by scanning the teeth. Thus, an internal, implanted microchip for identification of humans is already a reality. Also, IBM researchers are reportedly working on personal area network technology (PAN) to transfer data stored in a human implant. Apparently, they are exploiting the salinity of the body to create an electric field, by which data could be read. In this manner, data could be exchanged between people, or verified by an external mechanical system as a method of securing identification (Robert Ellis Smith, 1994).

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All in all, just because an opportunity presents itself does not mean one is required to take it. The buzz surrounding new ideas often tend to be exaggerated, as most people are quick to embrace something fresh without fully considering it

Brain implant technology is certainly an exciting concept with radical tools to offer; however, there exists no practical method that could fully integrate them into a future generation without generating chaos. With its health risks, invasion of individual privacy, and the potential to spark social relapse, personal brain implants simply bring up too many “what ifs”, and are too dangerous to ever see the light of day.

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Betsy Siino, Where Will the Chips Fall? Innovations in Pet Identification Systems, 47 Pet Product News 24 (1993).

Jon Van, In Future, Tiny Chip May Get Under Skin, Chicago Tribune, May 7, 1996

Kathleen Wiegner, In Development: The Cutting Edge: Computing/Technology/Innovation; Giving Surgical Implants IDs, Los Angeles Times, Aug. 17, 1994

Robert Ellis Smith, Implanting ID Microchips in Humans No Longer Far Fetched, 20 Privacy J. 1 (1994).

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