Implantable Microchips Spark Big Brother Concerns

Monday, February 12th 2007, 10:10 am
By: News On 6

Imagine a world where you have microchips implanted under your skin, and employers track your every move. It sounds like a movie, but it's close enough to reality that one Oklahoma Senator thinks we need protection from it.

The News on 6’s Steve Berg reports the lawmaker has a bill that would prevent companies from making chips a requirement to work there.

State Senator Brian Crain says he first heard about Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, from a worried constituent.

"I'll be honest with you, my first thought was that this is some kind of conspiracy theory, and I was not interested in it," he said.

But Crain says the more he learned about it, the more interested he became, and the more concerned.

The microchip is tiny, about the size of a grain of rice, it's inserted under the skin and contains a 16-digit number that can be read with a scanner. Implantable microchips started as a way to identify lost animals. Its most common use in people is to connect to a person's medical information when they're hurt or unconscious. The chips have also been used to keep track of Alzheimer's patients or newborn infants. But what caught Crain's eye is on the website for Verichip, the company that makes the chips, where it markets the chip as a tool for company security.

"My concern when you look at it is that this can also be expanded into large corporations who, for security purposes, want to track people who go through their building, or for employment payroll purposes, want to track when a person is at their desk and when they are not," said Crain.

So far, Crain says there's been no incidence in the U.S. where a company has required its workers to have a chip implanted. But he says there have been examples in other countries, and Crain doesn't think it's too far-fetched to see where a company here might pressure its workers to "chip in."

"I think we've got some really good technology here,” he said. “Unfortunately it runs the risk that it could become a big brother approach."

Senator Crain says if people want to volunteer for this kind of thing, more power to them. He says he will not try to stand in their way.

As of now, the chips don't have any kind of GPS support, so they can't track people if there's not a receiver nearby. The receivers have a range between one and 100-feet, depending on the type of chip.