Big Brother meets the silicon chip

A technological breakthrough can be used for sinister purposes.

In Amsterdam and Barcelona, patrons of exclusive bars can opt to have a microchip implanted under their skin. The chip allows them to enter the clubs unimpeded while also allowing management to keep a running record of their tab. The technology is the same as that used to track endangered animals in the wild or domestic pets in cities. Now the US Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of VeriChip technology for medical purposes. An electronic capsule the size of a grain of rice transmits a code to a scanner, allowing doctors to obtain a patient's medical history from an accompanying database. The technology could be used to track Alzheimer's patients who "wander" or allow doctors to know the blood type and medical allergies of patients who enter emergency rooms unconscious and need immediate surgery. The FDA's approval has alarmed human rights advocates, who speculate that the implants could have more sinister applications. They envisage an Orwellian future in which the implants could be used for surveillance and identification. "Once the technology is out there and is available it raises the very real possibility that people in a position to require or demand it will begin to do that," said Katherine Albrecht, who has campaigned against the devices. "In the post-9/11 world we are already racing down the path to total surveillance.

The only thing missing to clinch the deal has been the technology. This may fill that gap." (It is possible, however, that a microchip on a removable wristband - of the type recommended by blood transfusion specialists in Melbourne last week - might confer the benefits of the technology, while lessening the risks.)


Aftermath News Service
Top Stories - October 29th, 2004


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