It was bound to happen sooner or later. A tech company has introduced a plan to implant microchips into its employees that will allow building and computer access among other possibilities. These chips aren’t unlike the kind you may get in your dog or cat that will help identify them should they go missing. Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t concerns. However, owner Todd Westby isn’t worried about those concerns.
Todd Westby, the CEO of tech company Three Square Market, told ABC News today that of the 80 employees at the company’s River Falls headquarters, more than 50 had agreed to get implants. Westby said, however, that participation was not required.
The microchip uses RFID — radio frequency identification — technology and was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2004. It is the size of a grain of rice and will be placed between the thumb and forefinger.
Westby said that when his team was initially approached with the idea, there was some reluctance mixed with excitement.
Westby said the chip is not a GPS, does not allow for tracking workers and does not require passwords.
“There’s really nothing to hack in it because it is encrypted just like credit cards are. … The chances of hacking into it are almost nonexistent because it’s not connected to the internet,” he said. “The only way for somebody to get connectivity to it is to basically chop off your hand.”
It’s not really surprising that a tech company’s employees would be in favor of something like this. People who work in this sector tend to be the kind of people who become “early adopters” anyway. With the right assurances, any cynicism about the misuse of technology can be alleviated somewhat easily.
Unfortunately, there should be far more concerns than the employees are expressing. For one, this is taking a foreign object and placing it into an employee for as long as they work there. While the FDA may have approved the technology, that doesn’t mean there’s no risk of infection or other complications.
Additionally, while the chips can be removed — it’s described as being similar to removing a splinter — it’s still not a pleasant process and I find it highly unlikely that terminated employees are going to consent to the procedure without holding wages hostage in some way.
It’s good that it’s optional, and I can see some serious advantages for it. After all, it’s easy to forget an ID badge, but kind of difficult to leave your hand at home. However, what if this technology becomes so common as to become a work requirement?
Let’s also not forget the deeper concerns regarding technology like this. It’s not hard to imagine a world where chipping is required and the government knows where you are due to the ubiquity of RFID readers throughout the nation that will permit tracking, despite Westby’s arguments that such chips won’t allow that kind of activity.
Still, it’s an interesting development and warrants observation on how the technology works. Let me just add, though, it’s better those folks than me.