Will employers start imbedding RFID chips in their employees?

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Will your employer – or even the government – require that you get implanted with a RFID chip in the near future? It sounds like something out of a dystopian science fiction movie but in fact, when it comes to RFID implantation, the future is already here – and may be coming to your workplace soon.

Epicenter, a Swedish company, has installed microchips in the hands of its employees. The chips, about the size of a grain of rice and easily implanted under the skin with a special syringe, use a technology called radio-frequency identification, or RFID, to convey messages electronically over short distances to specialized receivers.

The RFID implants have a bevy of uses for employees, who can open doors to secure areas with a swipe, “log in” to work, access secure laptops and smartphones, use photocopiers, and even pay for coffee and lunch at the company’s cafeteria.

Epicenter hopes to eventually equip around 700 of its employees with the RFID chips in the back of their hands, eliminating the need for clumsy codes and hackable passwords. This may sound avant-garde but in fact these RDFID chips are already frequently in place, mostly found in contactless cards that allow millions of Americans to pass through tollbooths with EZPass or 10 million Londoners to pay for their subway without money. And don’t forget our pets, which are equipped with the RFID chips more frequently these days so they can be identified and returned if they ever are lost or run away.

This isn’t even the first time human beings have had RFID technology installed in their flesh, as in 1999, a United Kingdom professor named Kevin Warwick had a RFID chip implanted into his nervous system to test the use of interface with a robotic arm that could help amputees and those with paralysis. Last year, an Australian man chose to have a chip injected into his left hand at a tattoo parlor so he could swing open doors, switch on lights, and access computer information with the wave of a hand.

But this is different. What Epicenter is doing is implanting human beings with these microchips under their skin. And while the implantation is optional on face value, that’s a slippery slope, as those who opt out or refuse to get the chip could easily be passed up for promotions or flat out not hired in the first place.

BioNyfiken, the Swedish bio-hacking group that implanted the chips into Epicenter workers, said it wants to test uses of the technology and possible applications before others start doing the same.

“We want to be able to understand this technology before big corporates and big government come to us and say everyone should get chipped – the tax authority chip, the Google or Facebook chip,” says Hannes Sjoblad, chief disruption officer at BioNyfiken.

Is it far-fetched to think of the government implanting these chips in its citizens, maybe for law enforcement, parolees, those entrusted with sensitive financial information or Big Data? How about bank accounts, credit reporting, and credit score information?

Already, there have been reports of employers in the private sector offering the RFID chips to their employees in the U.S. In 2004, the Mexican government required its Attorney General to have such a chip installed for 160 of their top federal prosecutors and investigators in an attempt to curb corruption, access secure areas, and protect sensitive information.

In 2012 and 2013 there were rumors floated that Obamacare would require these same RFID chips for enrolled citizens, but they proved to be patently false. Several states – including California, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin– expressly prohibit the mandatory implantation of an RFID microchip by employers. But as we’ve seen in the past, if we need the law to tell us we can’t do something, a way to do it can’t be too far off.

Some experts see implanted RFID chips as the next logical step in an inevitable trend, similar to external video, voice, tracking, and monitoring software that keeps a tab on employees and gauges job performance.

“The more integrated [machines] become, it’s going to be less plausible to say, ‘this is just a human with rights using a machine with no rights,'” says Benjamin Wittes in his paper, “Our Cyborg Future: Law and Policy Implications.”

“The law remains embryonic on virtually all points of interest to the adolescent cyborg,” he adds. “Everything from your right to access your own data, to your right to restrict access to your data.”

Jane Chong, a lawyer and researcher at the Brookings Institution, agrees in the wave of technology we’ll soon see in the public and private sector. “The law is already addressing that less interesting version of this problem,” says Chong. “My guess is that if RFID chips threaten to really catch on, we’ll see a big rush to legally counter the trend.”

Our big question for you: Under what circumstances would you allow an employer to install a RFID chip under your skin?

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Blue Water Credit is the leader in ethical and legal credit repair, boosting clients’ scores so they can save huge money on a mortgage, loan, or just pay off debt and manage their finances. While we do credit repair better than anyone else, we do not ask our employees to wear RFID chips!

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