Monday, February 18, 2008

Two Perspectives on Human-Implanted RFID

I ran into two articles on Business Week's web site. They are two in a series of articles which discuss implantable RFID chips in humans. The first was written by Scott Silverman, CEO of VeriChip, maker of the only FDA-approved RFID implant for humans.

As one might expect, Silverman attempts to ease concerns over using RFID by describing certain "misconceptions" about the implants and explaining how those "myths" are unsubstantiated. He does a very good job, but as one who stands to benefit greatly from additional use of those chips, I think we should be leery of his attempt to explain away those misconceptions so casually.

Medical information is private: Yes, I agree with his stance pointing out that the implant alone cannot be used to access anyone's private health records because it only provides a coded number pointing to the person's records. Health records are only as safe as the security surrounding them and chip or no chip the safety of those records are the same.

I also agree with Mr. Silverman in that I don't believe implanted RFID implants are hazardous to health. The implants have been used for many years in animals and there is scarce evidence they cause any health problems.

I disagree with Silverman's claim the chips can't be used to track someone. He is correct in explaining the chips in the implant have no GPS and do not continuously transmit their data like a beacon. Although it is true the implants only transmit their data when activated by a special reader, he fails to mention the fact that someone with just a little bit of technical prowess can make a device to activate the chip and get the data from it.

Although tracking an individual's movements might be impractical, reading the unique ID number could be used in a crime against the person with the implant. Currently, the unique ID number in the implant's chip only links to a health record stored in VeriChip's database. But, what happens in future if that implant's technology is linked to bank accounts or other databases. Like credit and debit cards with RFID chips in them, we have a scenario where those chips can be exploited to the detriment of those who have them.

The second article, titled "Human ID Chips Get Under My Skin" by David Holzman, outlines some of objections to this technology, many of which I have already commented on elsewhere in this blog. I won't go into details, but suggest reading the article. It's short and to the point. I found his comments to be a thoughtful counterpoint to Mr. Silverman's utopian ideals of how these implants can be used.

No comments:

Post a Comment