October 22, 2004

Mmmmm… Verichip…

RFID and EPC By: ams

Mike Langberg of the SJ Mercury News:

I’m rolling up my sleeve, ready to get injected with the VeriChip. That’s the device cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration earlier this month as the first implantable electronic identification tag linked to a person’s medical profile…

VeriChip is not new technology. Applied Digital of Delray Beach, Fla., which developed the product, has sold 30 million virtually identical injectable ID chips for pets and livestock in the past 15 years. Thousands of lost dogs and cats without external ID tags have been reunited with their owners because the pets had ID chips that were scanned at animal shelters.

VeriChip is very simple. A glass capsule about the size of a grain of rice, the VeriChip contains only a basic microchip programmed with a 16-digit ID number and an antenna. When the VeriChip is hit with radio waves from a scanner, the chip responds by broadcasting its ID number. There are no batteries in the VeriChip, and it works for a lifetime…

We need basic protections, similar to what’s already in place for other technologies ranging from home phone lines to financial records. I’d humbly suggest federal laws covering five points:

1. Getting an implanted ID chip should always be voluntary, without coercion. No one should ever, ever be forced to get an ID chip. What’s more, schools, businesses and government should be banned from offers that pressure people — prisoners, for example, couldn’t be promised time off their sentences, and insurance carriers couldn’t offer lower rates.

2. There has to be an “off” switch. Implanted chips must either have the capability to be permanently turned off, or be removed. The VeriChip can’t be deactivated, but can be removed in a minor outpatient procedure. Deactivation or removal should be available on demand, no questions asked, and should be free; the fee for inserting a chip should include a reserve fund to pay for removals.

3. Scanners can’t be hidden. The scanners that read implanted ID chips can be built into walls, door frames or even highway signs. There needs to be a universal symbol showing the location of ID scanners, and that symbol must be shown wherever a scanner is present.

4. Individuals must be in control. Chip recipients need full disclosure and absolute veto power over what information goes into computer databases tied to their ID number, and who has access to that information. Again, schools, business and government couldn’t use coercion — such as an employer who sets up scanners within a company building, then insists as a condition of employment that workers allow scanning of implanted chips to track their movement.

5. Government can’t snoop with a court order. Law enforcement agencies would need to convince a judge of their legitimate interest in looking at your ID database in the same way they need court orders today to look at phone or bank records.

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