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‘Chipping’ of Humans No Longer the Stuff of Novels; Use of RFIDs Becoming Commonplace in America

More and more, George Orwell’s 1984 becoming reality—babies, students, elderly being ‘chipped’.


By Mike Finch

Radio Frequency Identification Devices (RFIDs) are finding their way into and onto humans in many ways. There are several ways government and commercial entities are looking to profit through impressive ID and Global Positioning System (GPS) technologies. Verichip Corp. successfully marketed “Hugs” Infant Protection System to hospitals in 2005. Since then, infants at many major hospitals receive ankle bracelets something like what many people on probation are currently required to use.

The ankle bracelets were marketed as a remedy for hospital infant abduction. When a child is removed from the infant care area of the hospital, an alarm sounds. About 230 infants are abducted every year from U.S. hospitals. The Hugs system saved one child in 2005. This may be a good idea, but it lays the groundwork for later RFID tagging on children and elderly for “safety reasons.” Some unverified Internet sources report that U.S. and European governments have plans to implant RFIDs in every newborn instead of using ankle bracelets.

A Rhode Island school plans to electronically track the movements of students using Radio Frequency Identification Devices (RFID). Microchips will be attached to the students’ backpacks next year. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other civil liberties groups say the RFID chips are an invasion of privacy. “Encouraging the placement of RFIDs on young children, even in this limited and questionable context, can only have the unintended effect of acclimating them to being monitored by the government in other contexts and wherever they go, as if it were perfectly normal and appropriate,” the ACLU said.

The RFID chips will be accessed via satellites through tiny GPS systems within the chips. The school will be able to follow the children anywhere. It is likely, though, that young people will just choose to leave their backpacks at school when they do not want to be followed. School officials may then contend for further invasion of privacy, and require RFIDs to be worn on clothing, or possibly injected.

In 2007, about 200 Alzheimer’s patients were implanted with non-GPS RFIDs in a market test done by Verichip. The devices held medical information that could be scanned with a special reader. Many more Alzheimer’s patients and people suffering with dementia have been implanted since the 2007 pilot program. Soon after the market testing by Verichip, sample RFIDs were handed out at the Alzheimer’s Community Care 2007 Educational Conference. In a 2007 Fox News report Verichip offered free RFID tagging for any interested party that wanted to tag an elderly parent.

Currently Verichip is reported to charge about $200 for the implant. The United Kingdom has concrete plans to implant RFID chips into prison populations. Other nations have been reported to use RFIDs on prisoners, including Sweden and several South American nations. The initial plans are to

inject prisoners with RFIDs that can be read by a scanner, with limited access and limited amounts of information. UK Officials said they will soon implant chips with GPS capabilities to monitor a prisoner’s location at any given time.

IBM recently applied for a patent regarding a system that would not only place RFIDs on all clothing items, but also track those items of clothing on a global scale. The patent implies that all clothing sold would have “globally unique” RFID tags in them in the future. The information would primarily be used for marketing purposes, but the government could also use such technology. “The exact identity of the person or certain characteristics about the person can be determined [through the use of this technology],” the patent said. “This information is used to monitor the movement of the person through the store or other areas . . . tracking information can be used to provide targeted advertising and to improve existing store systems and tracking systems.”

The RFID information could easily be used with credit card information for identification. The power and scope of the proposed database would certainly have civil rights implications. Goodyear began using RFIDs in tires in 2003, and all other major tire manufacturers have tested, or are using, RFIDs in tires to prevent tire counterfeiting, reports RFID Update, an industry RFID website. The RFIDs could easily be used to track tires anywhere in the country by private or government interests. Plans are underway for a global tire recognition program, all in the name of stopping tire counterfeiting.

Hitachi created an RFID chip that is smaller than a grain of sand. The .002-inch-by-.002-inch chip can be imbedded in paper, and could be used to track just about anything. The chips do not have GPS capability, but can store a 38-digit number that can be read by a hand held scanner. This chip is 60 times smaller than the first generation Hitachi micro-RFID. The former smallest of the small, the Mu-chip, measures in at .4 millimeters by .4 millimeters and could fit on the tip of a pencil. The Mu-chip is already used to track and identify items and prevent forgery of concert tickets.

“Invisible tracking brings to mind science-fiction- inspired uses, or even abuses, such as unknowingly getting sprinkled with smart-tag powder for Big Brother-like monitoring,” Associated Press said. The prediction that microchips will be able to interface with nerves and implanted in the brain in the next 30 years was recently put forth by a UK government think tank. The microchips predicted would be able to give sensory input, allow a sort of mind-to-mind communication (like an implanted cell phone) and allow direct to the brain marketing. This Orwellian prediction opens the door for direct mind control in true 1984 fashion.

Mike Finch is an intern reporter for AFP. He has a master’s degree in journalism and is working on his Ph.D. in communication.

(Issue # 28 & 29, July 14 & 21, 2008)

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