Remember the vaccine folks that were convinced that the government was conspiring to track us all through the vaccine program? There were a multitude of references, but this CNBC story provides some interesting insight: Why the COVID vaccines can't contain a tracking microchip or make you magnetic. Make me magnetic? There is some appeal to that one. Remember when I discovered I was becoming cooler? See Changes Getting Cooler (November 2020). To be both cool and magnetic? Outstanding! But, alas, CNBC says that at least the magnetic part is not to be.
Oh, we can all be tracked. That has been in the news recently. See Tech Stalking News (March 2022). It is note even that difficult, apparently. Of course, the idea of being tracked has been a long-time Hollywood trope. Shows like Person of Interest (CBS 2011-2016), Stalker (CBS 2014), and One Hour Photo (Silverlight 2002). Furthermore, with the advent and proliferation of digital cameras we are all being watched much more than we might expect. See Evolving Issues of Bodycams (July 2018)
I must spend an inordinate amount of time watching movies? Perhaps. Hollywood is fairly successful with showcasing tech, but it is perhaps no Jules Verne. One intriguing device was highlighted in Total Recall (the remake, Columbia 2012 - Think Colin Farrell instead of Arnold Schwarzenegger). It was a telephone circuit implanted in the hero's hand. To make a call, he simply used his hand. This would be very handy for us forgetful folks since it is difficult to walk away and absentmindedly leave your hand on: the desk, the bathroom vanity, kitchen cabinet, top of car, etc. etc. But, I digress; we are not quite to phone implants just yet.
However, in December 2021 it was reported that a chip could be implanted in your hand that would validate your vaccination status. France24 reported that over 6,000 in Sweden had such an implant installed. The story had breadth, and was covered in domestic sources such as the Orlando Sentinel also. The cost of this convenience was apparently about €100 (that[s 100 Euros to you or me). This would perhaps be a great convenience if you were living in one of the world's repressive regimes, like Philadelphia, but of no value here in the free state of Florida. See Pandemic Regulation a World Away (September 2021).
And more recently still, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reports that folks are having implants installed that are linked directly to their personal finances. Gone is the need for a "bank card or his mobile phone to pay" at a business. With such a chip, one merely waives that implanted hand "near the contactless card reader, and the payment goes through." Pretty convenient. You don't have to remember your wallet, or have your cell phone (picture climbing from the pool or the sea to saunter to the bar, ala James Bond, and ordering a Vodka Martini, shaken not stirred, with a wave of your hand.
Wonder and intrigue are my first reactions. One of the most intriguing points in the article is that this is not all that new. People have had these implants since 2019; however the microchip idea dates to the 1990s. This little (about "a grain of rice") includes the chip, an antenna, and requires no "battery, or other power source." The company marketing this has not reached the level of the Swedish COVID passport folks, but claims to have installed "more than 500 of the chips."
Webroot notes that all the banks claim their chips are encrypted, but that
"it's been proven that scanners—either homemade or easily bought—can swipe the cardholder's name and number. A cell-phone-sized RFID reader powered at 30 dBm (decibels per milliwatt) can pick up card information from 10 feet away."
Seemingly, if such a scanner can read your phone or credit card as you walk through the airport or mall, it could similarly read your implant perhaps? Wired suggests you turn off Bluetooth and and WiFi when you are not using it. There is some suggestion that you can loose private data that way. How do you turn off the communication capability of a grain of rice implanted in your hand? Or, am I just being paranoid?
Well, those marketing this chip claim that "the reading distance is limited by the small antenna" (in the rice-sized chip). Perhaps. They contend that the reader would have to get very close to effect a connection. Perhaps. And, possibly, I am just too much of a cynic and this is all both inevitably coming and undeniably positive. Perhaps it is the precursor to a cool phone implanted in your hand just like Collin Ferrell's Douglas Quaid in Total Recall (again, the remake, I generally hate remakes, with much more action and CGI, no offense Arnold).
The BBC acknowledges that chips are becoming increasingly rich with data, personal data. And, those chips might be a path into the vendor's (seller's) data systems in which even more personal information might reside. In all, the cyber world is one of great opportunity and efficiency, in which lurk a vast array of miscreants and ne'er do wells.
In the end, as the BBC author notes poignantly, we are all choosing to sacrifice some degree of the safety of our personal data for some degree of convenience and and access. We will each make such choices, and be challenged by the evolving world of data, the miscreants and malcontents, and our own feelings of risk aversion. I hope you will join me at the WCI in August for a command performance of the Cyber-Security breakout and strive for a better understanding of the risks and benefits we are all weighing each day.
Maybe this whole chipping proposal is all just a dream, as Quaid's recollections of his visit to Mars turn out to be. Or, perhaps it is more apt to describe it as a nightmare worthy of avoidance? For now, color me skeptical and for now not interested in being chipped for any reason. But, perhaps "time changes everything," or so Bob Wills and Merle Haggard claim.
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