‘Everybody’s doing it’: Injecting microchips becomes cool
The government isn’t quite ready to force microchip injections on citizens. But if you want to do it on your own, it just makes tracking you and your data that much easier!
You can be just like the cool kids who are having microchips injected in their hands in order to open locked doors and store payment information. A wave of the hand is all it will take to start your car, buy a latte, or share all your data with governments and corporations.
“I’m turning the internet of things into the internet of us,” said Jowan Osterlund in an interview with Recode. Osterlund is the founder of Biohax, a Swedish company that specializes in injecting small microchips, about the size of a grain of rice, under people’s skin.
The microchips, says Osterlund, can be programmed to speak to other networked devices, like coffee makers, speakers or doors with electronic locks. The idea is that it’s more convenient to wave your hand in front of the door than use a key card.
Inserted by a syringe into the skin between the thumb and the index finger, the chips communicate with other devices using Near Field Communication. It’s a wireless way of linking devices in close proximity to each other, similar to the way Bluetooth works. Contactless payment systems, like Apple Pay, also use NFC.
Last year, Microsoft invited Biohax to its TechDays conference in Sweden to implant some of the speakers at the conference, as well as a few Microsoft executives in attendance, according to Osterlund.
See it’s not scary or weird! Even hip Microsoft executives have it done. And they are on the front lines of technology! If they are doing it, maybe we all should.
The CIA Likes This Plan
And how could becoming a part of the internet of things ever pose any risks? When he was the Director of the CIA, General Petraeus was pretty excited about spying on you “through your dishwasher.”
Earlier this month, Petraeus mused about the emergence of an “Internet of Things” — that is, wired devices — at a summit for In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital firm. “‘Transformational’ is an overused word, but I do believe it properly applies to these technologies,” Petraeus enthused, “particularly to their effect on clandestine tradecraft.”
All those new online devices are a treasure trove of data if you’re a “person of interest” to the spy community. Once upon a time, spies had to place a bug in your chandelier to hear your conversation. With the rise of the “smart home,” you’d be sending tagged, geolocated data that a spy agency can intercept in real time when you use the lighting app on your phone to adjust your living room’s ambiance.
“Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters — all connected to the next-generation internet using abundant, low-cost, and high-power computing,” Petraeus said
Now the CIA might just get the opportunity to spy on you through the microchip embedded in the fleshy part of the hand between the thumb and index finger.
Right now, the chips going into employees only work in one direction, to send information, not receive it. And they do have to be scanned just inches away in order to give off any information, meaning they aren’t quite GPS chips just yet.
But while all RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chips may look similar, they are not created equal. The CIA has actually invested in multiple companies which make RFID microchips, some significantly more advanced than the ones used to buy snacks and get into the building.
[The CIA] also likes companies that are working on making smaller batteries, like Qynergy, a New Mexico-based company working on radioisotope batteries, and Infinite Power Solutions, a Colorado developer of thin-film batteries that can power RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tracking chips.
Speaking of RFID, In-Q-Tel seems to see potential there. In 2008 it invested in Massachusetts-based ThingMagic, a company that makes RFID chips that can “track anything.” The Florida State Attorney’s Office for West Palm Beach uses them to track felony case files, and Ford offered them up as an additional feature for pickup trucks. A contractor can put the tags on all of his tools, so that a quick scan of the truck bed with an RFID scanner will reveal everything in there. ThingMagic was acquired last month by GPS device maker Trimble Navigation for an undisclosed amount. In-Q-Tel has also invested in GainSpan, a company finding ways to make everything wi-fi-enabled, from refrigerators to health monitoring devices, for richer information on something than just its location.
And now we start seeing stories pop up in the media touting the benefits, convenience, and coolness factor of becoming micro-chipped. Dystopian images of the government forcing citizens to become implanted with microchips may, in fact, be overblown. People will do it to themselves, without coercion, just with a little mainstream media promotion.
But Micro-chipping is Convenient So…
A company in Sweden promotes the trend because it makes opening doors and buying smoothies so easy and convenient, and your coworkers will even throw a party for you once you take the plunge to become a cyborg.
The injections have become so popular that workers at Epicenter hold parties for those willing to get implanted.
“The biggest benefit I think is convenience,” said Patrick Mesterton, co-founder and CEO of Epicenter. As a demonstration, he unlocks a door by merely waving near it. “It basically replaces a lot of things you have, other communication devices, whether it be credit cards or keys.”
And that is all great, but your company will also be able to see when you get to work when you leave, how often you use the bathroom, what types of snacks you buy and at what time; basically any location or use data involved with the chip. And of course there are other corporations to think about; mining data is a huge industry.
Since most people are attached to their phones anyway, cell phone data can give a pretty good play by play of what people are doing. Microchips take that one step further so that literally every move you make could be tracked by your employer, other companies, and government agencies. They can map out your movements and activities with such precision and accuracy that they will know more about your habits than you do.
It is actually too bad that we don’t get to enjoy any cool technology because we know the government is just going to exploit it to spy on us. There are clearly benefits to RFID microchips, such as the ease of unlocking doors, starting cars, paying for things and so on.
But while the CIA has its hands in the venture, we, unfortunately, cannot trust that the data gathered from the use of embedded chips won’t be put to nefarious use.