Radio frequency identification and microchips have become much more accessible and prominent in everyday life. Whether it’s to keep people from stealing in stores, or to locate the home of a lost pet, RFID chips have a wide range of use. However, some people in the technology world believe that microchips are about to become exponentially more popular and further mesh the existence of robotics and humans.
One of these people is bio-hacker Hannes Sjoblad, from the Swedish Biohacking Group, Bionyfiken. Sjobald is one of the masterminds behind the technologically advanced company in Sweden, Epicenter, implanting these RFID microchips into select employees. Epicenter and Sjobald have encouraged as many employees as possible to volunteer for this implantation, which provides microchips that allow access to the building, computers, photocopiers and ultimately eliminates the need for key cards and passcodes. The chips store personal contact information of the employee, which allows for a digital log of all office activity to be compounded.
This process has thus far been a voluntary experiment for willing employees, but if the idea happens to catch on for other companies, this could potentially bring forth a minefield of legal issues. The chips may be more efficient than key cards in certain situations, however there could be serious pushback if a company decides to make this procedure mandatory.
Several questions to consider revolve around the safety of the employees. Not only is a microchip physically invasive, but what if an infection or other health problems arise? If a company has mandated the implant, it could end up having to pay out for hospital bills or potential lawsuits. Microchips have been used on pets for many years without problems, but humans are typically more apt at voicing complaints than animals.
Another question to ask would be whether this puts employees at unnecessary risk with people who want to gain unlawful access to the building? Instead of stealing a key card or forcing an employee to hand his card over, the intruder would have to take physical control over him. Employees would become walking keys and passwords for companies that use RFID chips, and they could either be forced to literally lend a hand to an intruder to open doors and other facilities, or the chip would have to be inexpertly removed, which is an unsettling thought.
Companies who choose to use employee microchips would also have to consider implementing new processes for hiring and firing personnel. Potential employees would have to indicate in interviews if they were squeamish about having an object inserted into their body for the sake of office efficiency, and employees on their way out would have to consent again to having the chip removed. Would there need to be a designated microchip manager to make sure that all former employees have complied with the chip removal process? If an employee is let go and no longer deemed trustworthy, would someone from the company have to escort them to a facility for the removal? Also what if a potential employee has certain religious beliefs against the implantation of foreign objects into their bodies, could there be an exemption? Sjobald has stated that he believes this new microchip technology is similar to vaccination, which many people found to be off-putting at first, and also has such religious exemptions.
Although the microchips at Epicenter are only being used within a small group of volunteers, this could in fact be the beginning of an era that allows for humans and technology to work in synchronization even more so than they already do. The chips being used currently only contain contact information for each respective employee, however Sjobald and the other bio-hackers hope that one day they could be used for making purchases, riding public transit, and myriad other activities.
With the invention of the smart phone, the majority of the population already consistently carries on their person a powerhouse of technology and personal information, so why not invest in a microchip as the final link to close the gap between person and machine?
This would be a new field in which a balance between technological advancement and personal autonomy would have to be struck, and while microchips could prove to be efficient and convenient for some, making the implantation mandatory could be an impossible feat to accomplish.