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Chips and Salsa

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I like my title a lot better than the story:

    Security has reached the subcutaneous level for Mexico’s attorney general and at least 160 people in his office — they have been implanted with microchips that get them access to secure areas of their headquarters.

    It’s a pioneering application of a technology that is widely used in animals but not in humans.

    Mexico’s top federal prosecutors and investigators began receiving chip implants in their arms in November in order to get access to restricted areas inside the attorney general’s headquarters, said Antonio Aceves, general director of Solusat, the company that distributes the microchips in Mexico.

    Attorney General Rafael Macedo de la Concha and 160 of his employees were implanted at a cost to taxpayers of $150 for each rice grain-sized chip.

    More are scheduled to get ‘‘tagged” in coming months, and key members of the Mexican military, the police and the office of President Vicente Fox might follow suit, Aceves said. Fox’s office did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

    ….They lie dormant under the skin until read by an electromagnetic scanner, which uses a technology known as radio frequency identification, or RFID, that’s now getting hot in the inventory and supply chain businesses.

    Scott Silverman, Applied Digital Solutions’ chief executive, said each of his company’s implantable chips has a special identification number that would foil an impostor.

    ….In addition to the chips sold to the Mexican government, more than 1,000 Mexicans have implanted them for medical reasons, Aceves said. Hospital officials can use a scanning device to download a chip’s serial number, which they then use to access a patient’s blood type, name and other information on a computer.

    The Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve microchips as medical devices in the United States.

    ….Because the Applied Digital chips cannot be easily removed — and are housed in glass capsules designed to break and be unusable if taken out — they could be even more popular someday if they eventually can incorporate locator capabilities. Already, global positioning system chips have become common accouterments on jewelry or clothing in Mexico. [AP]

This gives new meaning to the tern “invasive.”

Regarding the security needs of the attorney general’s office, why would this be preferable to some kind of biometric security system? Maybe it’s just a lot cheaper. I don’t mind my eyeball being scanned but I don’t think I want a chip under the hood, so to speak.

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About Eric Olsen

  • http://dirtgrain.com/weblog Dirtgrain

    Check out the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s page on Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Systems:

      While corporate giants tout the merits of RFID technology, civil liberties advocates point out that the ability to track people, products, vehicles, and even currency would create an Orwellian world where law enforcement officials and nosy retailers could read the contents of a handbag—perhaps without a person’s knowledge—simply by installing RFID readers nearby. Such a fear is not unfounded. Currently, some RFID readers have the capacity to read data transmitted by many different RFID tag. This means that if a person enters a store carrying several RFID tags—for example, in articles of clothing or cards carried in a wallet—one RFID reader can read the data emitted by all of the tags, and not simply the signal relayed by in-store products. This capacity enables retailers with RFID readers to compile a more complete profile of shoppers than would be possible by simply scanning the bar codes of products a consumer purchases.

      Even the RFID industry itself is aware of the threat to privacy posed by the development and installation of tags in commonplace items. Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering (CASPIAN) recently located internal public relations documents which detail how RFID developers plan to offset public opposition to the technology. The documents, prepared by Fleishman-Hillard, a communications consultancy, suggest that RFID industry leaders are planning a public relations campaign designed to counter opposition to the pervasive use of RFID technology. The documents detailing how such a campaign may unfold begin by outlining obstacles that hinder the widespread implementation of RFID technology. These obstacles include the facts that: “consumers are very concerned about invasions of their privacy,” are “cynical about the government and private sector’s commitment to protecting privacy,” and are “inclined to believe that businesses have little incentive to protect consumers’ personal information.” In response, the documents cite the need for the development of a proactive plan that would “neutralize opposition” and “mitigate possible public backlash.” One method of doing so suggested by the documents is through the creation of a Privacy Advisory Council made up of “well known, credible, and credentialed experts” who may be “potentially adversarial advocates.” The documents cite EPIC as an example of such a potential council member. Although EPIC has been approached by others on this issue, EPIC will not serve on such a council or consult for other companies.

      The proposed uses of RFID tags pose exponentially greater risks to personal privacy. Many technology experts predict the development of a seamless network of millions of RFID receivers strategically placed around the globe in airports, seaports, highways, distribution centers, warehouses, retail stores, and consumers’ homes, all of which are constantly reading, processing, and evaluating consumers behaviors and purchases. In addition to undermining a consumer’s ability to enjoy a lifestyle in relative anonymity, critics of the technology counter that the information gathered by RFID readers could be obtained by the government for surveillance or monitoring the activities of citizens, or even misused by hackers and criminals. Even more, the ever-expanding use of RFID chips would leave no aspect of life safe from the prying eyes of retail and corporate giants. Chips integrated into commonplace products such as floor tiles, shelf paper, cabinets, appliance, exercise equipment, and grocery and packaged products would allow even our most intimate activities to be monitored.

      Opponents of RFID tags have proposed measures to side-step the chips’ relentless information-gathering, ranging from disabling the tags by crushing or puncturing them, to simply boycotting the products of companies which use or plan to implement RFID technology. One way to destroy the tags is to microwave them for several seconds. Another method is to obstruct the information gathered by RFID readers by using blocker tags. When carried by a consumer, blocker tags impair readers by simulating many ordinary RFID tags simultaneously. Blocker tags can also block selectively by simulating only designated ID codes, such as those issued by a particular manufacturer.

      In an attempt to soothe consumers’ fears, companies have argued that most items tagged with RFID chips can’t be tracked beyond an operating distance of about five feet. However, while this may be true today, industry experts say plans for building far more sensitive RFID signal receivers are in the works.

      As RFID technology becomes more advanced, consumers may ultimately lose all ability to evade products implanted with chips. Corning researchers have developed tiny, barcoded beads that are invisible to the human eye. The microscopic beads can be embedded in inks to tag currency and other documents, and even attached to DNA molecules. They can also be added to substances like automobile paint, explosives, or other products that law enforcement officers or retailers have a strong interest in tracking. Researchers say the technology could be ready for commercial use in three to six years.

    I hope they don’t decide to plant them up our noses, in our braincases. It looked really painful when Arnold pulled that gumball-sized tracking device from his nose in Total Recall. If you want to make money, the RFID industry looks like a goldmine for investors. Screw that. Don’t sell out. Give us free.

  • Teresa

    I have a implanted microchips in eyes. I live in the United States in Burnham, IL. I recently found out about the implanted microchip in my eyes after I had several people at my former job viewing me from the internet. I hear voices and can see pictures of things that just happen to me. I don’t see how this will help anyone, may they be in police or not. If someone else is trying to influence your toughts and are invadling your privacy how will they become better.
    If anyone knows how to remove this device from my eyes please [Personal contact info deleted]