For years, a subset of the transhumanist community, called "grinders", has been experimenting with implanting electronics and microchips into their bodies. Considered fringe technology not so long ago, the idea of implantable electronics has recently moved closer to the mainstream. Now a tech company based in Wisconsin is set to offer all its employees the option of receiving an implantable microchip in their hands.
The RFID chip Three Square Market (32M) is offering all its employees is the size of a grain of rice and easily implanted under the skin, between the thumb and forefinger. Utilizing near-field communications (NFC), the chip will give employees the ability to automatically open doors, log into computers and make purchases in the break room simply with the wave of a hand.
"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," says 32M CEO, Todd Westby. "Eventually, this technology will become standardized allowing you to use this as your passport, public transit, all purchasing opportunities, etc."
So far, 50 out of the company's 85 head office employees have signed up for the program. They will be "chipped" at what the company is calling a "chip party" to be held in early August.
While the chip technology certainly offers some benefits for those inclined to frequently lose or forget their wallet and keycard, RFID chips are still the subject of considerable concern regarding both security and privacy.
RFID "skimming" is a form of wireless digital theft where a criminal lifts the information off a nearby chip. Safely securing the data on a chip is still a problem that hasn't been fully resolved. An MIT team last year announced a breakthrough in RFID security with the development of a supposedly "unhackable" chip, but this technology is not yet in widespread use.
Privacy issues are another major concern when considering a broader public implementation of RFID chips. 32M has made it very clear that the RFID chips it is using are small and have a very limited tracking range. RFID is not the same as GPS for instance, and these small chips generally can only be identified when pressed close to a receiving device.
But this is certainly a case of putting a whole lot of trust in your employer. Although these types of RFID chips have very limited functions right now, it is not hard to envision a future where they can do a whole lot more, from potentially more widely tracking your location to containing biosensors that could detect the presence of illicit substances.
The dawn of corporations microchipping employees is upon us, and the big question we have to ask ourselves is, how much do we trust our boss?
Source: Three Square MarketView gallery - 3 images