Ok microchips in Fido were one thing but have we gone too far when we want to implant them in people? While many people think it is a step too far, nevertheless that’s exactly what some cutting edge companies and high-class resorts are offering, promising the ultimate in vacation or shopping experiences using this technology. No more wallets by the pool was the selling point for a hotel in Spain; no more fraudulent charges at stores, no more pesky lines, card swipes or checks just wave your hand and you’re done. Oh and even if someone found the unique code on your microchip, you still have to be standing right there to use it. That’s how RFID (radio frequency identification) is being marketed to the public, the next logical step in convenience and security. Implications for the not so distant future include, child protection, medical records implantation, and it is already being used as wander care for some Alzheimer’s sufferers, all from a harmless chip in our hand or placed in our thumb or forefinger. But where is this really leading; some fear a big brother society, tracking our every move, where we go, what we do, how we drive, who we’re with, what we eat another means of control in a world where the powers that be seem to have too much already. Besides being the conspiracy theorists’ long held nightmare, some already oppose our dependence on things like GPS navigation in cars, GPS tracking in cellphones, while others appose the idea of things like pace makers and other medical mechanical devices that go inside the body.
Putting aside the creepy factor there are concerns not just in terms of a big brother, government always watching society; there are real safety concerns, people allergic to metal that don’t find out until it is implanted that may die because of it. If you are in an accident and are violently tossed around the chip could become dislodged from your hand, thumb or forefinger and travel to other parts of your body causing, at the least, a need for surgery to return it to its proper location; at most, it has the potential to cause heat attack, stroke, brain bleed, possible death from the afore mentioned issues or amputation as the dislodged chip cuts of circulation to a limb, particularly if stranded in a crash. On a lesser scale what happens if the chip is improperly put in, becoming dislodged to wander inside of users; what about those who play sports, do martial arts or other forms of extreme exertion that could cause the chip to come loose? At the same time how many times has the government said something was safe only for it to be recalled short months or years later; think of all the recalled drugs, birth control methods, food chemicals, the debate right now over BPA in baby products and the controversy over its presence in canned foods. Placing them in people with neurological disorders may pose increased risk of seizure or exacerbate symptoms of autism and similar conditions. On a more practical level, what happens if the chip becomes occluded by fat or skin tissue and suddenly stops working or begins to malfunction; what happens when it locks you out of your room or it adds more things to your shopping list than you wanted? What happens if the chip malfunctions and interferes with the brain’s natural electrical impulses; is debilitating brain injury or death something we really want to risk just so we don’t have to carry a wallet by the pool, to avoid unauthorized use of a credit card?
Further, right now it is voluntary; what happens if, and for those who believe in biblical thought, when we are all forced to have this, or some other form of identification implanted in us? What happens when police forces realize they can save fortunes in manpower never having to look for a missing person again because we are all on one giant GPS grid; what happens when people start to be regaled with tales of never having their child or loved one go missing because of this wonderful technology? What happens when everyone government to healthcare providers figure out they can use it as a means of control on citizens; obese, lock you out of buying your favorite fast food or eating at a buffet, credit card debt, lock you out of making new purchases. One of the hopeful future uses is the new smart home that replaces door locks with human imbedded microchips; with the effort to go green, use too much electricity, it automatically shuts off, buy too many gas guzzling vehicles in you life, lock you away from buying the car of your choice. Want to buy a home, who needs a realtor, who needs long approval processes for loans, just lock people out of what they can’t afford. Not only does it raise ethical questions of epic proportions it stands to challenge our very social fabric; if this technology is allowed to become widely used how long is it before we regulate behavior on a mechanical not a social basis? How long before it advances to not only having a type of GPS on you at all times, your medical, financial, banking and personal information at the wave of your hand but also, alcoholic, lock them out of buying liquor of any kind, drug addict, how long is it before the chip analyzes the drugs you handle and dispatches the police to the place of sale or to your home to arrest you? While that may sound appealing to those tired of the drugs and crime and alarming to others; less drastically, in the advertising craze of today, what happens if advertisers find a way to use your microchip to compel you to buy only their product or compel you to buy the newest model or their latest thing?
The problem with RFID is not its convenience, security, or possible positive uses; the problem is the slippery slope it puts us all on. Today we use it to enhance shopping and hotel experiences; tomorrow we use it to store medical records, keep track of our kids, all of our older relatives, better secure our homes. In a decade, 20 years we graduate to everyone must have them and having all of our info on a microchip inside us date of birth, social security numbers are replaced with microchip numbers, banking info, no more credit cards, credit score, credit history, the kind of car you drive more advanced reads of where you’ve been, who you were with for police or anyone who can get their hands on that type of scanning technology. Besides being an invasion of everything to do with privacy as we have come to know it, it takes away jobs not only now but in the future as the technology becomes more wide spread; yes new jobs will be created servicing the technology, putting in scanners to replace ATM’s and credit card readers, but it also takes away human element, human discretion. We see that already with job applications, automated phone systems; everyone knows how frustrating it is to have to over enunciate for a computer who doesn’t have what you are requesting in its database of options and it keeps repeating try again; maybe 5-10 minutes later it connects you to an actual person. Now some phone systems don’t give you the option of holding after so many rings you get an automated courtesy message advising you to call back later and are hung up on. Imagine the whole of life being that way. And what happens if you refuse implantation, heavy taxes, fines; eventually less places available to you to buy everything from gas to groceries, get a loan or receive medical care until you are left with no other option than to get it. This slippery slope also just creates smarter criminals as they find their way around new devices or find new ways to manipulate it to illegal ends. The cost is just too high; the benefits don’t outweigh the risks.
So far this article has looked at the problems with the technology itself from safety to future and social fabric indications, yet there is an even bigger reason not to let RFID grow in the direction that it currently is. It is completely unnecessary; we don’t need RFID. For those resorts looking to enhance the experience of guests consider retinal scanning to access hotel accounts, purchase items. Credit card companies already offer things like pay pass something that could be placed on a key chain at the beach and could be combined with thumbprint ID to prevent fraud. Bracelets with a hotel or resort microchip in them could be given to guests on arrival, making room access and beach experiences easier. Thumbprint technology can easily be used to access things in shopping malls, or our aforementioned resort, advanced to recognize the unique smudge patters of those without fingerprints due to accident or birth defect. Facial recognition software is also an option that, with an investment, can become more cost effective and augmented to serve the needs of retailers, keeping customer information private as well as reducing theft. Automated wish lists similar to baby and wedding registries accessible by facial, eye or thumbprint scan can remind customers of things they were interested in and more efficiently detail consumer interests for business owners. Homes of the near future, nearer likely than RFID access based homes, are set up to use thumbprint recognition; input the thumbprints of residents or those allowed access and it only unlocks for them.
Medical records do not need to be implanted in our person; so many places have yet to fully computerize said records and doing that alone would cut costs and errors. In addition the company My Minerva already has a system that can place medical tests, x-rays, blood work and much more on a simple flash drive. As we store lager amounts of data on these types of drives it is only a matter of time before there are expandable models ideal for entire medical histories. Companies like this or insurance providers with effort could store all that in a database accessible by doctors via the forms of identification mentioned above elicited when you go to your doctor. There are alternatives in tracking dementia suffers and others with cognitive disabilities that require this type of care. Extreme Makeover Home Addition built and accessorized a home for an autistic boy and his deaf parents; along with the sensors on doors and windows that would alert them if the boy was outside they were able to place a device in the boys pajamas, as much of his wandering was at night. Such devices can be sewn into other clothing as well. Similar principles apply in tracking children we already have GPS locaters that can attach to backpacks, be placed inside shoes or worn as a wrist band; to prevent detection by a kidnapper, they could be disguised as watches or decretive bracelets. Cell phones designed specifically for kids and tweens offer parents the ability to know where their kids are.
The multiple forms of ID mentioned that are already in usage across the country and the world allow for people who may be unnerved by one form to use another, ideal for those who may have medical conditions that make continual retinal scanning harmful or for those with difficulties using thumbprint scans. They are much more likely to be streamlined into everyday usage at a faster pace than RFID with much less malfunction, do not require surgery, anesthetic of any kind and do not have the far reaching implications noted herein. They virtually remove most of the slippery slope scenarios and the ones that do come up will be much easier to identify and deal with under evolving privacy law. RFID is unneeded, largely unwanted and, again for those who believe in biblical thought, while RFID may not be the dooms day horror to come it may well be the precursor. Why hasten it here; even if that line of thinking sounds as quaint as the Mayan calendar 2012 end of the world predictions, why take on the pervasive social, technological changes for convenience?