Life With Big Brother and The Mark Of The
Scientists currently tag animals to study their behavior and protect
the endangered, but some futurists wonder whether all humans should be
Where’s Jimmy? Just Google His Bar Code
By Gene J. Koprowski
Tech enthusiasts and futurists think implantable radio chips, such as
those embedded in Amal Graafstra's hands, could mean safety, security
and convenience. But civil libertarians are concerned about privacy.
Scientists tag animals to monitor their behavior and keep track of
endangered species. Now some futurists are asking whether all of
mankind should be tagged too. Looking for a loved one? Just Google his
The chips, called radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, emit a
simple radio signal akin to a bar code, anywhere, anytime. Futurists
say they can be easily implanted under the skin on a person’s arm.
Already, the government of Mexico has surgically implanted the chips,
the size of a grain of rice, in the upper arms of staff at the attorney
general’s office in Mexico City. The chips contain codes that, when
read by scanners, allow access to a secure building, and prevent
trespassing by drug lords.
In research published in the International Journal of Innovation and
Sustainable Development, Taiwanese researchers postulate that the tags
could help save lives in the aftermath of a major earthquake. "Office
workers would have their identity badges embedded in their RFID tags,
while visitors would be given temporary RFID tags when they enter the
lobby," they suggest. Similarly, identity tags for hospital staff and
patients could embed RFID technology.
“Our world is becoming instrumented,” IBM’s chairman and CEO, Samuel J.
Palmisano said at an industry conference last week. “Today, there are
nearly a billion transistors per human, each one costing one
ten-millionth of a cent. There are 30 billion radio RFID tags produced
Having one in every person could relieve anxiety for parents and help
save lives, or work on a more mundane level by unlocking doors with the
wave of a hand or starting a parked car -- that's how tech enthusiast
Amal Graafstra (his hands are pictured above) uses his. But this
secure, “instrumented” future is frightening for many civil liberties
advocates. Even adding an RFID chip to a driver’s license or state ID
card raises objections from concerned voices.
Tracking boxes and containers on a ship en route from Hong Kong is OK,
civil libertarians say. So is monitoring cats and dogs with a chip
surgically inserted under their skin. But they say tracking people is
over-the-top -- even though the FDA has approved the devices as safe in
humans and animals.
“We are concerned about the implantation of identity chips,” said Jay
Stanley, senior policy analyst for the speech, privacy and technology
program at the American Civil Liberties Union. He puts the problem
plainly: “Many people find the idea creepy.”
“RFID tags make the perfect tracking device,” Stanley said. “The
prospect of RFID chips carried by all in identity papers means that any
individual’s presence at a given location can be detected or recorded
simply through the installation of an invisible RFID reader.”
There are a number of entrepreneurial companies marketing radio
tracking technologies, including Positive ID, Datakey and MicroChips.
Companies started marketing the idea behind these innovative
technologies a few years ago, as excellent devices for tracking
everyone, all the time.
Following its first use in an emergency room in 2006, VeriChip touted
the success of the subdermal chip. "We are very proud of how the
VeriMed Patient Identification performed during this emergency
situation. This event illustrates the important role that the VeriChip
can play in medical care," Kevin McLaughlin, President and CEO of
VeriChip, said at the time.
“Because of their increasing sophistication and low cost, these sensors
and devices give us, for the first time ever, real-time instrumentation
of a wide range of the world's systems -- natural and man-made,” said
But are human's "systems" to be measured?
Grassroots groups are fretting loudly over civil liberties implications
of the devices, threatening to thwart their development for
mass-market, human tracking applications.
“If such readers proliferate, and there would be many incentives to
install them, we would find ourselves in a surveillance society of 24/7
mass tracking,” said the ACLU's Stanley.
The controversy extends overseas, too. David Cameron, Britain's new
prime minister, has promised to scrap a proposed national ID card
system and biometrics for passports and the socialized health service,
options that were touted by the Labour Party.
"We share a common commitment to civil liberties, and to getting rid --
immediately -- of Labour's ID card scheme," said Cameron according to
These controversies are impacting developers. One firm, Positive ID,
has dropped the idea of tracking regular folks with its chip
technology. On Wednesday, the company announced that it had filed a
patent for a new medical device to monitor blood glucose levels in
diabetics. The technology it initially developed to track the masses is
now just a “legacy” system for the Del Ray Beach, Fla., firm.
“We are developing an in-vivo, glucose sensing microchip,” Allison
Tomek, senior vice president of investor relations and corporate
communications, told FoxNews.com. “In theory it will be able to detect
glucose levels. We are testing the glucose sensor portion of the
product. It will contain a sensor with an implantable RFID chip.
Today’s patent filing was really about our technology to create a
transformational electronic interface to measure chemical change in
Gone are the company’s previous ambitions. “Our board of directors
wants a new direction,” says Tomek. “Rather than focus on
identification only, we think there is much more value in taking this
to a diagnostic platform. That’s the future of the technology -- not
the simple ID.”
The company even sold off some of its individual-style tracking
technology to Stanley Black and Decker for $48 million, she said.
These medical applications are not quite as controversial as the
tracking technologies. The FDA in 2004 approved another chip developed
by Positive ID’s predecessor company, VeriChip, which stores a code --
similar to the identifying UPC code on products sold in retail stores
-- that releases patient-specific information when a scanner passes
over the chip. Those codes, placed on chips and scanned at the
physician’s office or the hospital, would disclose a patient’s medical
But like smart cards, these medical chips can still be read from a
distance by predators. A receiving device can "speak” to the chip
remotely, without any need for physical contact, and get whatever
information is on it. And that’s causing concern too.
The bottom line is simple, according to the ACLU: “Security questions
have not been addressed,” said Stanley. And until those questions are
resolved, this technology may remain in the labs.
Report-1 - Mark Of The Beast Technologies