A US company has become the first in the country to microchip its employees.
Three Square Market, a Wisconsin-based company has offered to implant its employees with a radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip. Those who volunteered can now open doors, log in to computers and pay for food within the company premises.
RFID technology refers to digital data that gets encoded in RFID tags or ‘smart labels.’ These tags can then be made to communicate with electronic readers via radio waves. This technology is similar to the barcoding that is prevalent in retail industry but offers other advantages. For instance, an RFID tag can be read even if it is not in the line-of-sight, which is not possible under the barcode system.
According to its website, Three Square Market, is a “leader in micro market break room solutions.” It claims that it is the first in the US to initiate such a program. Since 2015, a Swedish co-working space called Epicenter, has also been offering its workers a chance to have a microchip implanted under their skin. The chip, which is no more than a grain of rice, will help them open doors and use photocopiers without a pass card.
About 50 employees working at Three Square Market have volunteered to have chips embedded under their skin. The company said that in the future, this technology could be used for multiple purposed including the purchase of goods without a credit or debit card. They state it could one day become an ID card by itself.
32M CEO, Todd Westby said, “We foresee the use of RFID technology to drive everything from making purchases in our office break room market, opening doors, use of copy machines, logging into our office computers, unlocking phones, sharing business cards, storing medical/health information, and used as payment at other RFID terminals. Eventually, this technology will become standardized allowing you to use this as your passport, public transit, all purchasing opportunities, etc.”
The chips cost around $300 and the company has said that they will be paying for it on behalf of their employees. The company has assuaged fears by noting that these chips (which are as small as a rice grain) are not GPS-enabled and cannot be tracked. The chips were made in collaboration with a Swedish company called Biohax International.
Our assessment is that these RFID chips could be used as a convince tool. However, there are serious issues of ethics such as the ownership of the chip and the information contained in it and how someone could be de-chipped, if they no longer worked for the company that required it. The larger issue could be the consequence if a chip could be hacked to harass or stalk someone.