For awhile now, Americans have been concerned about the much-anticipated chipping, but now it’s finally being offered (or rather pushed) by one company who thinks that they’re ushering in the future.
The chips this company offers go in the hand and make it easier to get through doors and other security check points that would typically require some sort of ID or card.
Additionally, the company promises that these chips aren’t in any way GPS enabled and can’t be used to read information, only hold information that you might need to use.
The LA Times reported on the phenomenon:
“The syringe slides in between the thumb and index finger. Then, with a click, a microchip is injected in the employee’s hand. Another ‘cyborg’ is created.
What could pass for a dystopian vision of the workplace is almost routine at the Swedish start-up hub Epicenter. The company offers to implant its workers and start-up members with microchips the size of grains of rice that function as swipe cards: to open doors, operate printers or buy smoothies with a wave of the hand.
‘The biggest benefit, I think, is convenience,’ said Patrick Mesterton, co-founder and chief executive of Epicenter. As a demonstration, he unlocks a door merely by waving near it. ‘It basically replaces a lot of things you have, other communication devices, whether it be credit cards or keys.’
And as with most new technologies, it raises security and privacy issues. Although the chips are biologically safe, the data they generate can show how often employees come to work or what they buy. Unlike company swipe cards or smartphones, which can generate the same data, people cannot easily separate themselves from the chips.
‘Of course, putting things into your body is quite a big step to do, and it was even for me at first,’ said Mesterton, saying he initially had his doubts.
‘On the other hand, I mean, people have been implanting things into their body, like pacemakers and stuff to control your heart,’ he said. ‘That’s a way, way more serious thing than having a small chip that can actually communicate with devices.’
Epicenter, which is home to more than 100 companies and roughly 2,000 workers, began implanting workers in January 2015. Now, about 150 workers have the chips. A company based in Belgium also offers its employees such implants, and there are isolated cases around the world in which tech enthusiasts have tried them out in recent years.
Ben Libberton, a microbiologist at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute, says hackers could conceivably gain huge swaths of information from embedded microchips. The ethical dilemmas will become bigger the more sophisticated the microchips become.
‘The data that you could possibly get from a chip that is embedded in your body is a lot different from the data that you can get from a smartphone,’ he says. ‘Conceptually, you could get data about your health, you could get data about your whereabouts, how often you’re working, how long you’re working, if you’re taking toilet breaks and things like that.’
Libberton said that if such information is collected, the big question remains of what happens to it, who uses it and for what purpose.
So far, Epicenter’s group of cyborgs doesn’t seem too concerned.
‘People ask me, ‘Are you chipped?’ and I say, ‘Yes, why not?’’ said Fredric Kaijser, the 47-year-old chief experience officer at Epicenter. ‘And they all get excited about privacy issues and what that means and so forth. And for me it’s just a matter of I like to try new things and just see it as more of an enabler and what that would bring into the future.’
Epicenter workers stage monthly events where attendees can receive the implant.
That means visits from self-described ‘body hacker’ Jowan Osterlund from Biohax Sweden who performs the ‘operation.’
Sandra Haglof, 25, who works for Eventomatic, an events company that works with Epicenter, has had three piercings before, and her left hand barely shakes as Osterlund injects the chip.
‘I want to be part of the future,’ she laughs.”
This is the kind of thing that’s been a long time in the making and should be very scary to all of us, because we can’t really think of a scenario where this ends well for people.
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