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Technology milestone or privacy invasion?


In 1945, Léon Theremin, a Russian inventor, invented one of the first covert listening devices, also known as “bugs.” RFID technology can be defined as the wireless non-contact use of radio-frequency electromagnetic fields to transfer data with the aim to 'automatically identify and track tags attached to objects.'

On 24th of August 1998, Professor Kevin Warwick became the first human being to be implanted with an RFID chip. Using the transponder, he was able to open doors that previously required smart card access. He was also able to turn on lights simply by entering into the room. He had the implant in his hand for nine days. His feedback was simply that  “the implant need to be placed nearer to the brain – into the spinal cord or onto the optic nerve, where there is a more powerful set-up for transmitting and receiving specific complex sensory signals.”

With a tiny computer chip having been approved in 2004 for implantation into a patients arm, the idea was that it would contain vital information about their medical history in order to speed up care and treatment. Of course there were many side effects and risks outlined in a document by the FDA, which outlined potential risks to heath. 

However, this does raise questions about confidentially of information and privacy.

There are two main security concerns related to the use of RFID chips, namely, the infection with computer viruses and cloning.

In January this year, Epicenter in Sweden implanted an RFID chip into consenting employees hands. The chip gave them access to doors, photocopiers, coffee machines, paying at the cafe and other tasks within the workplace.

The CEO of the company said: "We already interact with technology all the time. Today it's a bit messy - we need pin codes and passwords. Wouldn't it be easy to just touch with your hand? That's really intuitive."

How are RFID chips being used today?

Identification badges containing RFID tags are used as anti-shoplifting technology. RFID tags attached to cars during the production process allow the producers to track the progress of the assembly line. RFID tags are placed on casino chips in order to detect counterfeits. Livestock may carry injected RFID tags which allow the identification of the animals.

Pros and Cons

Pros: RFID chips could allow governments to locate fugitives, witnesses of crimes, and missing persons.

Cons: Chips are associated with security risks, cause health problems and may be forcefully implemented in employees.

What do you think?