Should We Allow ID Chips to Be Placed Under the Skin of Humans?

How would you like to wake up some morning only to find a tattoo on your arm that says Intel Inside? The idea first started to gain traction back in 2002, when one company (Allied Digital Solutions via a subsidiary) sought FDA approval for its VeriChip, a radio-frequency identification (RFID) device. The purpose of the implant was to make it possible to identify a person — someone who could not identify themselves — and it would contain any pertinent health information that might be needed by emergency personnel. This 2004 documentation contains the FDA guidelines for the embedding of these VeriChip devices into humans (aka patients).

Those who favor using embedded chipping for ID purposes present the following arguments:

  • It would benefit the caregivers of the elderly, especially those who suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia, since it would make it easier for them to be located if they wandered off. In this case, it would mean that they could be returned to the safety of their home.
  • It would be a way of locating missing children. This could be an invaluable resource if the child was abducted and not just off playing.
  • It would be valuable in the event that a child suffering from an abnormality (such as autism) could be quickly located if they became lost or if they needed to receive medical treatment.
  • The chip can be used to readily access medical information.
  • The chip can be used for identification purposes, making going through security checkpoints easier.

Those who are against embedding chips into humans for any purpose present these arguments:

  • First and seemingly at the forefront of their argument are privacy issues. They cite that their paramount concern is that the government is already in a position of unwarranted control into the lives of its citizens and that chipping would allow them the ability to track us no matter where we went.
  • This goes hand in hand with religious concerns that the embedding of identification chips could be a prelude to what is referred to in the Bible as the Mark of the Beast. This is a numerical digit that would be placed on a person’s hand or forehead and then scanned whenever something is sold or purchased.
  • Medically, they cite concerns that, for those with auto immune type diseases, the embedding of a chip could lead to infection.
  • Additionally, critics point out that if the person is issued a bracelet with an RFID chip — rather than having one embedded in the skin — they are then allowed the freedom to choose whether they wish to wear the bracelet or not.

However, it appears that the company that originally developed the VeriChip seems to have had second thoughts about it and has currently abandoned its development efforts. According to its website, this is a relatively new development and it is a curiosity as to why it no longer feels the need for emergency personnel to have access to a quick means of accessing medical records. It does appear, though, that the company hasn’t totally given up on the idea of using chips for humans and has developed a chip that it calls GlucoChip, which measures glucose levels in the body using an RFID microchip. The purpose of the microchip is supposedly an effort to assist diabetics in better monitoring their blood glucose levels. Since it is always reading their blood, it will be able to provide real time reporting and analysis. That means that it could just be a matter of time before someone else takes up the mantle to chip humans for other purposes.

One must also note that chipping has become commonplace for other purposes, such as tracking lost pets. Chipping of your pet can cost upwards of $100 or more in most veterinary offices, and the chip itself is about the size of a grain of rice. One cited advantage is that it won’t disturb your pet’s sensitive hearing since it has no broadcast frequency and doesn’t require a battery for power. Currently, this process is simple and the information is limited to an identifying number that associates the pet with its human owner via a scanner and a computer database of information.

So while we are not currently in danger of being given a governmental mandate that we must receive such an implant, it can be concluded that this is definitely one hot topic. However, in the long run there is really only one real issue and that is how you feel about having an ID chip put under your skin. Do you believe that it will really interfere with your constitutional right to privacy? Do you have a religious conviction about having one implanted in your body? Do you think that having medical information available in the event of an accident is important? Each of us has to decide the answers to the above questions for ourselves.

So no matter which side of the issue you are on, whether you are for or against chips being embedded under your skin, I believe you should be allowed the freedom of choice for yourself and for those in your care. I also believe that there are rational opinions on both sides of the issue and that we should all respect and support the choices of others in the matter.

What do you think?

Comments welcome.

Printed Silicon Ink Chips – Boon or Bust?

Printed chips could be a boon for one Silicon Valley firm that hopes that the printed chips could assist consumers. Using silicon ink to print the chips, the chips could contained data to help consumers make the right purchase. So what makes printed chips so attractive? They could be inexpensive to produce compared to traditional silicon chips.

Over at the San Jose Mercury News, they state the following information:

Until now, creating the microchips that power all of our electronic gadgets has been a laborious, complex and time-consuming process costing billions of dollars.

But if a Milpitas-based startup succeeds, making them could be as easy as printing a piece of paper.

And that could open up a huge market for so called “printed semiconductors,” which would contain an enormous amount of data but would be cheap enough to slap on thousands of products. Imagine going to the grocery store and being able to find out what wine works best with your favorite chicken recipe.

Backed by investors who include former San Francisco 49ers Brent Jones and Tommy Vardell — and a board that boasts Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla — privately held Kovio hopes to launch in a matter of weeks what is believed to be the world’s first manufacturing plant for printed semiconductors.

By using inkjet and other types of printers, the company plans to make radio frequency identification devices — so called RFID tags. Such tags traditionally contain microchips, but are so expensive now their use has been relatively limited.

If Kovio succeeds in keeping the price of the devices low, according to its executives and others familiar with the company, it could herald a new era for consumers and the chip business.

But will this be enough to make the printed chips successful? We won’t know the answer to that question until we see the final product. I must admit that if this does come about, we could be looking at a new era in technology.

Comments as always are welcome.


RFID Marks Wine Bottles As Authentic

In a new take on technology a company by the name of eProvenance is now providing a system to mark, identify and trace bottles of fine wines. The wine industry has been fighting fraudulent  wine bottling for years and this new company hopes to put a stop to this illegal activity. On their web site eProvenance states that:

eProvenance, a new company applying advanced technology to assure the total quality of fine wines from château to consumer, today unveiled its innovative Intelligent Bottle™ and wine temperature tracking system along with its web site, Founded in January 2007 by Eric Vogt to assure the provenance of every bottle of fine wine, the company is currently implementing programs with nine leading Bordeaux Châteaux, including several first growths.

Until now, the most critical component of certifiable value to the consumer, provenance (typically defined as authenticity, traceability and knowledge of storage temperatures), has been anecdotal at best, and unverifiable. The eProvenance solution creates a secure, global system to assure the provenance of fine wine from the château to the consumer and on to the auction house. eProvenance has launched its system in Bordeaux for fine wine and the system is designed to serve any wine region in the world. Currently, the eProvenance system and services are available to wine producers and the professional distribution channel.

The eProvenance system includes three physical components:
  1. A semi-active RFID tag placed inside the case to monitor and record temperatures and improve shipping and receiving operations throughout the distribution chain.
  2. A passive RFID tag with a unique code attached to the base of the bottle to automate tracking and inventory management, and discourage pilferage.
  3. A proprietary, tamper-proof neck seal with a covert code applied at the base of the capsule to authenticate the wine inside the bottle and thwart counterfeiters.

It should be interesting to see how well this new technology works and if it will prevent counterfeiting of expensive wines in the future.

Comments welcome.

eProvenance web site is here.

[tags] wine, labels, tracking, rfid, counterfeiting, expensive, wines, storgae, temperature, [/tags]

RFID chips – are they the devil's mark?

For the past thirty years, information technology has continually advanced, while costs have fallen considerably, causing many questions to be addressed about the growing risk to our guaranteed right to privacy. These rights are in danger due to data that is digitized, transmitted, and stored with the possibility that this information could be processed from several interconnected sources. Nanotechnology, while not the only technology at issue, potentially plays an important role insofar as it has the ability to increase processing power.

Such technology is already available in the form of RFIDs (Radio Frequency Identification Devices) that contain a transmitter and logical circuits. These chips are used to transmit information, often through an electronic product code, that carry enough bits to identify every individual object manufactured in the world. These chips can run without batteries and their range can vary from a few centimeters to more than twenty meters if a power supply is used. Their sub-millimeter scale size has allowed them to be implemented for use as badges to access systems and for short-range identification helping to track inventory, provide anti-theft protection and in the identification of animals. The unit price of the devices is inexpensive are expected to fall in the next few years to little more than the cost of a label.

However, at the end of 2003, about thirty US associations wrote a manifesto on limiting the use of RFIDs stating the dangers of RFIDs as they can be easily hidden and while active they continue to provide information on the person carrying them including how much money the person carries. Additionally, they claim that these chips are enabled to cross-reference information such as checking the identity of the person carrying the object, such as a bank card but they state that more subtle combinations are possible using insignificant information.

Associations generally propose that the use of RFIDs should be regulated and voluntary even to the point of removing the RFID is so desired by the user.  On the other hand defenders of the technology point out their limited range, and the fact that RFIDs cease to operate at the door of a shop. However, distrust has been fuelled by a series of semi-official tests carried out on consumers causing a public outcry that resulted with the companies involved scaling back their projects.

The basis for fair use of RFIDs is more or less set, consisting in a balance between taking benefit from their technology while insuring an individual’s right to privacy. However, for these standards to work one must realize that the implementation of such enforcement is not without cost and user control may not be easy.

One of the major current concerns is the existing technique for implanting RFIDs in the human body. Voluntary tests on humans has already begun and as of 2004, an estimated one thousand people were implanted with these devices. The product being used in humans is called the Verichip and is made by Applied Digital Solution which also sells the Digital Angel device that will at some point interface with the GPS network to locate its bearer. Like the satellite tracking devices these chips will make it possible for the government to mark individuals for surveillance purposes. In some cases such as medical monitoring of patients with Alzheimer’s Disease or to protect children in the event that they go missing this technology may seem like a godsend but how many of us want someone to be hone in on us at any given moment of any day without our consent. Another function of the chip could be to make secure payments without fear of identity theft since the chip is implanted beneath the skin. This seems particularly scary to me since I have been warned since I was small child about the Biblical mark of the beast which will be an implanted in the hand or on the forehead during the time that the anti-Christ comes to power. This religious aspect can be looked at on numerous websites or in the Bible, Book of Revelation (13:11, 16, 17). “Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon […]. He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.”

This quote shows us that the fears generated by these new technologies trigger emotions that may be deep-seated in the human psyche, particularly the reservoir of symbols, images, and archetypes linked to the sacred. So my warning would be this: think twice about these technologies and carefully analyze their advantages and possible dangers before allowing yourself to have something like this implanted in your body.

[tags]RFID, Radio Frequency Identification Device, Devil’s mark, danger, invasion of privacy, implantable device, Human monitoring, mark of the beast, ani-Christ, medical monitoring, access badges, pet identification chips[/tags]

Someone's Knocking At The Door…

At the university where my wife and I work for central IT, we are coming to grips with the fact the old username and password method of protecting online services no longer provides a level of security we are comfortable with. As more and more services become available online, the need for a system that is more robust becomes increasingly urgent. When I first joined the Higher-Ed world almost ten years ago, only a handful of services were accessible over the network and each of those services used and maintained its own users and credentials. The only saving grace was the fact that these services were specialized enough that any one service was only used by a small percentage of the university population. The security picture was also bolstered by the fact that dial-up was still “new” and, while many of the faculty and staff had PCs, not all of them were on the network.
Continue reading “Someone's Knocking At The Door…”