Legislation of the future

GCN Insider

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill last month that at first glance might seem copied from a Philip K. Dick novel ' making it illegal for businesses to forcibly implant employees with radio frequency identification chips.

The law states that it will 'prohibit a person from requiring, coercing or compelling any other individual to undergo the subcutaneous implanting of an identification device.'

But the legislation is not without cause. A year ago, employees at an Ohio company, CityWatcher.com, could gain access to certain rooms only if they had been implanted with RFID tags. Wisconsin and North Dakota also have banned the implantation of RFID tags in humans without consent.

Forcibly implanted chips have long been a mainstay of science fiction movies, which California, by the way, churns out at a furious pace.

Whole 'X-Files' episodes were created based on a chip that aliens implanted into FBI agent Dana Scully's neck.

The Governator himself starred in 'Total Recall,' a 1990 movie based on Dick's story 'We Can Remember It for You Wholesale' about a future world where memories are implanted with a chip.

The key word in the California legislation is forcibly. In real life, thousands of people have voluntarily had VeriChip RFID tags implanted into their arms, most of them patients suffering from serious illnesses such as Alzheimer's disease. VeriChip offers VeriMed, an implantable chip approved by the Food and Drug Administration that hospital employees can scan to read a patient's medical information.

According to VeriChip's Web site, www.verichipcorp.com, the chips can be safely removed.

About the size of a grain of rice, the chip must be scanned at close range.

Regardless of the benefits, the creepiness of implanted RFID tags still seems too high for the technology to gain wide acceptance.

Some studies have linked the devices to the development of malignant tumors in laboratory animals. Although some say the initial alarms about the technology came from the tinfoil-hat community, the privacy concerns are real.

And I'd like to think my subcutaneous tissue ' like my thoughts ' is private.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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