KIRSTERS BAISH| Most of us are somewhat familiar with the book, “1984” by George Orwell, in which the government takes full control. The book illustrates the horrors of what it would be like living in a world where big brother is always watching. I remember reading “1984” back in high school and thinking that it was completely fictional and nothing like the events that transpired in the book could actually happen in real life. I was sadly mistaken.
The privacy, safety, and personal rights of Americans is at stake. One company has just made the announcement that they will be microchipping all employees, and the process has already begun. The Wisconsin company claims that they are innovators bringing us into the future, but to any normal person it sounds like a complete disregard for human rights and privacy. The microchips will allow employees to gain entry through security check points that would normally require said employee to carry an ID card. The Wisconsin company wants to give other companies access to the technology to provide “convenient” implants, which will be inserted into employees’ hands.
The part that I’m having the most trouble digesting is that the company is insisting that the chips do not have GPS and cannot be used to read information. They are claiming that the chips only hold information that employees may need to access, such as using multiple magnetic strips by swiping their hand. They also claim that if (and when) GPS will be enabled they will notify the public. Somehow, I’m having some trouble trusting big brother.
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.”
After reading LA Times’ piece I am literally sick to my stomach. How can someone compare a microchip to a PACEMAKER? They are NOT the same at all! A pacemaker is used to help keep someone alive. A microchip is used to limit someone’s personal freedoms. All the company has to do to access someone’s personal information is higher a hacker. Once that microchip is inside your person, your employer essentially owns you.
As an American, it horrifies me to see how quickly our personal freedoms are being snatched away from us. We cannot sit back and allow the government to control us. Microchips are the first step in a complete loss of freedom for all Americans.