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As technology advances, it is becoming possible to implement computer-chips that can be embedded in the human skin. With every technological advancement, society has new solutions to problems. However, few people recognize or admit the regression that comes as a result of every progression. With such a computer technology, there are significant problems when examining such chips from the scientific perspective.
The Christian Bible discusses "the mark of the beast" which many Christians believe are computer chips that are implanted in the human skin.
It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.
- Revelation 13:16-17, New International Version (NIV)
With all theological debate and beliefs set aside and assuming that the quote is discussing skin-implanted chips, such technology is still a bad idea from the scientific perspective. True, such technology makes it unnecessary to carry a wallet (money, insurance cards, driver's license, etc.). Other advantages also exist. However, the disadvantages are of great importance.
Privacy and Security
The first and obvious disadvantage is privacy and security. Depending on the features that may be incorporated into the chip, people cannot privately purchase certain items. People and businesses with the scanners needed to read the chips may get more information from the chip than they say they will obtain.
Most chips of this type use Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) which is a technology that uses radio-waves to transfer data. RFID is commonly used for identification. This feature would further harm the security and privacy of people with the implanted chips. For instance, RFID E-ZPass readers could be placed throughout an area, thus making it possible to track a person's location and whereabouts. Obviously, when security and privacy are reduced, freedom is also at risk.
In December 1, 2006, Erin Joyce made the below quote on the "Internet News".
RFID sort of lends itself to a surreptitious tracking model, simply because of the way the tech operates, silently and through radio waves. If people have an interest in surreptitious tracking, RFID is a natural candidate.
- Erin Joyce on the "Internet News"
Any extra information and features on the chip (like GPS) would further increase the privacy problems. If such chips are made to store medical data, then people would lose additional privacy if the data is viewed. This can be made worse if doctors put the wrong information or diagnosis on the chip, thus making creating inaccurate records that will not be denied by people who view the information. Rights-activists, political supporters, and people with certain ethical beliefs/practices can be easily targeted by governments, bigots, corporations, individuals (that hacked the wireless system), etc. These security issues not only affect civilians, but also military groups, governments, and businesses.
In 2006, Steve Boggan proved that the RFID chips in E-Passports are insecure and he demonstrates the danger of these chips.
Six months ago, with the help of a rather scary computer expert, I deconstructed the life of an airline passenger simply by using information garnered from a boarding-pass stub he had thrown into a dustbin on the Heathrow Express. By using his British Airways frequent-flyer number and buying a ticket in his name on the airline's website, we were able to access his personal data, passport number, date of birth and nationality. Based on this information, using publicly available databases, we found out where he lived, his profession, all his academic qualifications and even how much his house was worth.
- Steve Boggan
FUN FACT: Mylar fabric can block the radio-waves of current RFID chips. Mylar gloves and arm-bands can be used to enhance an individual's privacy and safety.
As with any computer system, they can all be hacked or abused. Nothing is 100% secure. Hackers have always found a way to crack ciphers and security systems to obtain encrypted and secure data and corrupt and steal data. Numerous people with power-positions (like doctors, politicians, law-enforcement, etc.) have abused their privileges to obtain what they desire. What makes people think that these chips will not have the same problems? With every progression comes regression.
The chips contain metallic substances and electricity sources or means of generating electricity. These two characteristics alone pose many risks and disadvantages. For instance, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) would no longer be a possible method for diagnosis. Also, hand injuries may break the chips in a way that may cause electrical shock and burns. Malformed chips (whether due to factory-manufacturing or wear-and-tear) may also cause electrical shock and burns. Metal implants are capable of being induced to produce electric currents. It is also feasible that some people may have allergic reactions to the chips. In addition, no tests have been run to see if chips implanted in new-born babies will cause problems in hand development. The FDA published a letter/notice about the VeriChip RFID chip in October 12, 2004 listing some possible medical downsides (electrical hazards being one of them).
As with any technology, there are bugs (flaws and faulty code). Nearly all (if not every) person that uses a computer has experienced some bug where a program freezes or crashes. Some people may have gone to stores and fuel-stations where the credit-card system is down. If the customer had no physical money with them at that moment, then they were unable to purchase the needed items. Being dependent on these chips to pay bills and purchase goods can be a problem if someone cannot get the RFID-scanner to recognize the chip.
For illustration, imagine having one day left until the deadline for paying the electric-bill. You go to pay the bill, but the RFID scanner is down and the technician is busy with other important repairs. Or perhaps, none of the office's scanners are able to get the information off your chip. If this technology has replaced the concept of physical money, then you must hope the bill-issuers are understanding and give you an extension.
Computer bugs may also introduce privacy and security problems. Think about all the security and bug patches that programmers often release to fix problems in today's software. Also, to fix such issues, the chips will need to be updated occasionally. This may inconvenience people if they need to take the time to obtain updates for their chips. However, if the chips update automatically, then if a faulty update is accidentally released without sufficient testing, chip-owners will experience problems.
If such technology becomes widely used, perhaps malicious hackers will develop malware (computer viruses) for these chips. As with many technological advancements, flaws and problems may arise that were never previously expected or intended.
Implantable Chip Time-line
- 2004 - The VeriChip (RFID implant later re-brand as PositiveID) is FDA approved for human medical uses. The chip is about the size of a grain of rice and implantation takes less than twenty minutes.
- 2004 - Some USA hospitals begin implanting RFID chips in patients.
- 2005 - Thermo Life Technologies made a thermoelectric generator named after the company itself. This technology makes RFID chips more feasible. (http://www.poweredbythermolife.com/thermolife.htm).
- 2006 - The encryption on RFID chips used in United Kingdom E-Passports was cracked in 48-hours by Steve Boggan. This makes identity theft easier.
- 2007 - Chris Paget of San Francisco, California, proved that information can be stolen from an RFID chip using $250 worth of equipment.
- 2009 - VeriChip Inc. and Steel Vault Corporation merge to form PositiveID.
- 2010 - PositiveID discontinued the implantable chips.
- 2010 - Perpetua Power acquired Thermo Life Technologies.
- 2014 - Individuals can purchase a RFID kit at https://dangerousthings.com/shop/xnt-ntag216-2x12mm-glass-tag/ for about $100USD.
- 2015 - RSA Laboratories discovers that a second or two of exposer to microwave radiation (the same frequency generated by standard microwave ovens) destroys RFID chips.
- Chip Implants: Better Care or Privacy Scare? - http://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/news/20050727/chip-implants-better-care-privacy-scare
- Under-the-skin ID Chips Move Toward U.S. Hospitals - http://www.zdnet.com/article/under-the-skin-id-chips-move-toward-u-s-hospitals/
- NTAG Type 2 Information - http://www.nxp.com/products/identification_and_security/smart_label_and_tag_ics/ntag/series/NTAG213_215_216.html
- Security (Reading Guide) - http://dcjtech.info/topic/security/