A small chip that can be embedded in a human to store paragraphs of personal information has recently been developed. Is Microchip Manufacturer Paving the Road to Easy Street
for Big Brother?

A small chip that can be embedded in a human to store paragraphs of personal information and transmit them via radio waves to a scanning device has recently been developed by Applied Digital Solutions of Palm Beach, Florida. The company hails the device as a modern miracle that can be used to store important medical or personal information to be read by medical personnel in an emergency, and is using the September tragedy as an example of its applications. Applied Digital Solutions plans to actively market the "VeriChip" as soon as approved by the Food and Drug Administration, possibly as early as next year.

The week after September 11, Dr. Richard Seelig, a surgeon employed with the company became VeriChip’s first human guinea pig and implanted the tiny chip under his skin. "I was so compelled by what had happened. One of the potential applications suddenly jumped out — the ability to have a secure form of identification —and I felt I had to take the next step," he said.

There is nothing inherently wrong with the development of this technology, or even its intended application. According to the company, the microchips currently have no internal power source and cannot be considered tracking devices because the personal data cannot be read without a scanning device. However, the potential for use and abuse of such technology is here, and cannot be ignored.

With science fiction sugar plums dancing in our heads, the idea of Big Brother using the "VeriChip" to keep tabs on unwitting citizens or to keep logs of personal data is not too far out there. And, the device raises serious red flags for those interested in protecting their privacy from prying eyes. The company is already trumpeting future versions that could include a tracking beacon and could be used to track prisoners and those out on parole, or as a form of identification for airline employees.

Applied Digital Solutions already has a product on the market that utilizes satellite technology to track users. Dubbed the Digital Angel, it is a small watch-like device that combines the tracking ability of the Global Positioning System with "bio-sensors" that monitor vital signs such as heart rate and temperature. The Digital Angel is being marketed as a protection device for children and senior citizens (it can even be ordered with a "sudden fall" indicator).

"We’re doing what LoJack or OnStar Navigation does for your car for a much more precious resource," said chief technology officer Keith Bolton. Currently, only the watch-like version is being sold, but Applied Digital Solutions holds the patent for an implantable version of the device.

The company also markets a microchip available for tracking runaway pets, and legislators in California are already attempting to mandate that pet owners implant their pets with the device for "public safety" reasons. (A Microchip for Every Pet?)

It is one thing to allow pet owners to utilize this technology of their own free will, quite another to mandate that each and every pooch be implanted with a microchip. How will legislators treat the new human version? A mandated microchip for Grandma and Grandpa?

January 4, 2002
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