Chips with everything? Would you like a microchip implanted in your body?
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Chips with everything?

Chips with everything?

Posted on 18th November 2018

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I like chips.  Of course, I do, I’m Scottish.  But would I want one inserted under the skin of my hand so that I can open my office door, pay my bills or even fly my helicopter (if I had one that is)? More to the point, would you?

Sweden is a nice country, rightly lauded for many aspects of its government and society. However, over the last few years, stories of Swedish companies micro-chipping their employees have begun to emerge.  Back in 2015, the BBC’s Technology Correspondent, Rory Cellan Jones, was chipped at Epicenter, a high-tech office block in Sweden.

The USA, naturally, has also got in on the act, with 50% of the employees of a firm in Wisconsin taking up the offer of having a microchip implanted, but it’s Sweden that has really run with this and now there are thousands of Swedes with a device the size of a grain of rice under the skin between their thumb and index finger.  

Alarmingly, a couple of weekends ago, the press contained a story that “major UK companies” are preparing to introduce micro-chipping for their staff.

There are two questions about this.  One, obviously, is “does it hurt?” The second is, equally obviously, “why would you want to do it?”

The answer to the first one is easy. If you have a look at the screen-grab below from the BBC’s website, you’ll see Rory Cellan Jones having the chip inserted. The message from his facial expression  - and on the back of T-shirt of the man doing the inserting - makes it quite clear that yes, of course it “expletive deleted” hurts.

The answer to the second question is, in my opinion, also easy.  The answers given to justify this procedure essentially boil down to one word – “convenience.” Those with these chips say “it just means I can never forget my ID card to get into my work.” 

But just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it.  Yes, it may let you open doors, pay bills and do similar stuff, but you can do that with a really clever thing called a hand, usually holding another device such as a mobile, smart-watch or a card of some type.

More worryingly, there are the shadows of 1984, Brave New World and, if you want to get really alarmist, Logan’s Run here. There are also a number of very important legal questions that would be thrown up if we all started to get micro-chipped for work.

We’ve already seen arguments over who “owns” a LinkedIn profile, so it’s only too easy to see a similar debate over who owns the data on a chip.  In fact, come to that, who owns the chip anyway? If it starts to have personal “apps” on it (like an iPhone) then the person in whom it’s implanted will not want to hand it back to their company.  And suppose an employee feels coerced into having a chip insert or removed – is this then assault?

Now let’s not kid ourselves; we all know that employees are monitored in all sorts of ways, from CCTV to CPD, but, in my opinion, physically inserting an electronic device into another person’s body for business purposes, even if said purposes are on the face of it benign, is crossing the Rubicon.  And that’s a journey I, personally, don’t want to make.

Nikola Kelly, MD, Be-IT


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