On 1 August 2017, employees of a Wisconsin-based technology company enjoyed a “Chip Party” – but not the salty kind. 21 of Three Square Market’s 85 employees agreed to allow their employer to embed radio frequency identification chips in their bodies. We are familiar with the Internet of Things, is this the Internet of People?
Three Square Market (known as 32M) highlighted the convenience of microchipping their employees, reporting that they will be able to use the RFID chip to make purchases in the company break room, open doors, access copy machines and log in to their computers.
While the “chipped” employees reported that they felt only a brief sting when the chips were inserted, chipping employees draws deeper cuts through ethical and privacy issues.
One such issue is the potential for the technology to gradually encroach with further applications not contemplated by its original purpose. RFID technology has the potential to be used for surveillance and location-tracking purposes, similar to GPS technology. It also has potential to be used as a password or authentication tool, to store health information, access public transport or even as a passport.
While these potential applications will offer convenience to employers and consumers, the value of the information generated by each transaction is arguably greater for the marketers, data brokers and law enforcement entities that use it for their own purposes. Once data like this exists it can be accessed in all manner of circumstances. Can you ever provide sufficient advice and counselling to employees to create informed consent free from the power imbalance of the employment relationship?
All keen on tech here at K&L Gates, but no one was putting their hand up for a similar program here, we’ll all just use our pass card to open the door, thanks. We were left brainstorming films that use implants to see where this technology could take us as it is all too common in Sci-Fi films. Have a look at The Final Cut, 2004 (warning 37% Rotten Tomato rating), where implants took centre stage by storing people’s experiences. We are not there yet, but we have taken the first wobbly step on the path.