Note from the author
This is an academic research paper that I wrote in 2002 for a secular class I was taking on Technology and Society. At the time, it was one of the only sources of concrete information on the subject after many hours of heavy research on my part.
What I found alarmed me then and it alarms me even more now, as the things which I discussed in my 2002 report (which is below) have moved even farther along. This is very serious stuff and may very well alude to the "mark of the beast" which is described in Revelation. None of this is meant to scare you. Remember, these things must happen. The Bible says they will. But this is meant to inform you so that you can be aware of some of the things that are emerging.
So with that, I present to you an academic paper on human identification chips.
Your brother in Christ,
An In-Depth Look at Human Identification Chips
(By Chris Long, September, 2002)
The purpose of this report is to examine the relatively new technology of human identification chips and in particular the impact that this technology has and will have on society. Major topics covered in this report include a brief description of the technology, the social benefits of the technology, the social costs and disadvantages of the technology, legal and governmental issues relating to the technology, ethical considerations in regards to the technology, and finally the results of a new survey taken.
OVERVIEW AND BRIEF DESCRIPTION
In recent years, much focus has been given to what are called "biometric" technologies which include things such as fingerprint scans, voice prints, and retina recognition, as a means of identifying people. Now, however, there is a new technology on the horizon that one day in the not-so-distant future may well become the conclusive way to identify people, be it for medical, security, national identification, or other reasons. That technology is the human identification chip (8).
Identification chips have been available for animals for many years now to identify them and provide information if they get lost (5). Now, there are currently in development and indeed there have already been produced and tested, human identification chips. These extremely small dime or quarter-sized chips are inserted just below the skin's surface using a needle. It does not hurt more than a shot to get one inserted. The current life of a chip is about 20 years but this will improve with future versions. Unlike other identification technologies, identification chips are virtually tamper-proof because they are physically embedded in a person's body (8).
The chips have no battery and no chemicals. These chips contain a number. When an external scanner passes over the implanted chip, radio frequency energy is passed to the chip, which in turn energizes the chip. The chip sends out a radio frequency signal containing the number that is stored in the chip, which is then read by the scanner. In turn, the scanner then transmits the number to a database and pulls the appropriate information out of a database. The chips can also be linked to a G.P.S. satellite so that the person's location can be tracked from a computer (9).
The VeriChip identification chip, which is manufactured by Applied Digital Solutions, is the world's first real viable human implantation chip. VeriChip is virtually undetectable and indestructible. Applied Digital Solutions is marketing VeriChip as a large-scale means of identification. According to their Internet web site, they state, "We are promoting VeriChip as a universal means of identification. We expect it to be used in a variety of applications, including transportation security, residential and building access, and military and government security (9)." To what degree however will VeriChip or other identification chips have on society in both beneficial and non-beneficial terms?
Supporters of human identification chips say that there are many different benefits that they can and will provide to society and that these benefits far outweigh the possible problems. Firstly, there are a wide variety of areas in which implants could be used. These include such things as medical information; tracking prisoners, parolees, convicted sex offenders, children or infants, and the elderly (Alzheimer's patients perhaps), military uses, business transactions, and as means of a national identification system.
The first major benefit that is being promoted is that of the chip's benefit in the medical arena. This is what is being used to introduce the chips to society. An implanted microchip could link to a database with information such as the person's name, medical allergies, medical conditions, past medical history, and pacemaker manufacturer and model number. If a person was unconscious or confused, emergency personnel could quickly scan them and their medical history would be revealed. Proponents argue that access to this information could end up saving millions of lives (2).
On May 10, 2002, the first humans were implanted with Applied Digital Solutions' VeriChip human identification chip. Because of health problems and concerns, the Jacobs family was very interested in the benefits that the chip could provide in the event of a medical emergency. "It was amazing. I thought I was going to feel something, but I didn't," said Leslie Jacobs (3).
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration after reviewing the VeriChip, concluded in April 2002 that it does not consider the device to be a regulated medical device. The L.A. Times on May 10th, 2002 stated, "Company officials said they were free to proceed because the implant contains identification numbers that correspond to personal medical information in a separate database" and therefore do not contain the actual medical information in the chip itself (3).
Applied Digital Solutions is currently working on another chip that in the future will be able to access even more personal information and will have the capability to track people everywhere they are, using Global Positioning Satellites (G.P.S.). Applied Digital's Digital Angel device, however already is capable of some of this. In the future, the chips will be able to monitor bodily functions and send that information to medical monitoring facilities (3).
Another possible benefit according to proponents is that crime will be reduced and that more criminals will be caught. How? The reasoning goes that if prisoners and parolees have chips implanted, then they could be monitored and tracked. Parole officers for instance would know instantly if a parolee left an area that they were not supposed to leave and could dispatch police to an exact location to re-arrest them. Sex offenders could be monitored and people would be able to know if a specific person could be a threat to children. This could prove invaluable to the person looking to hire an employee for a position in childcare, for instance. In addition, if infants and young children had chips implanted into them, a kidnapper would not be able to get far with them.
A benefit of which governments are very interested in is the military use of human identification chips. The chips would become a sort of digital "dog tag", providing information about each soldier. Soldiers could also be individually tracked with the chips, which could mean that commanders would be better able to plan and execute attacks (3).
The enhancing of security in business transactions is another possible benefit of implanted microchips. Individuals would be clearly identified for conducting commerce related transactions. The number on the chip may even be able to be linked to a bank account and money able to be automatically debited or credited to the account. This could prove important in particularly high-stakes transactions such as government contract bids.
Finally, another item promoted as a benefit by some is that the chips could ultimately be used by everyone as a form of national identification. This could replace the social security number that is typically used for identification purposes in the United States today (3).
These are just some of the many benefits that implanted microchips may bring to society. Paul Saffo, the director of the Institute for the Future, which is a research firm in California, says, "We put all sorts of implants in [our bodies] today...If we have metal hips, it only makes sense to have chips in (3)." But, as with any technology, there are downsides as well. In the next section, these social costs and disadvantages will be discussed. Many people feel that benefits of the technology are also conversely its disadvantages.
SOCIAL COSTS AND DISADVANTAGES
The disadvantages and social costs of implanting microchips into humans are just as numerous as the benefits, if not more so. And as mentioned previously, many of them are the same or are in similar areas.
One of the first disadvantages is the lack of a uniform way to access the chips. There is no standard as to where the chips should be located on a person. Some say they should be located on the underarm, wrist, forehead, and other areas of the body. This makes it difficult for someone with a scanner to know where on a person's body to scan, in order to retrieve the chip's data. Currently, many hospitals and emergency rooms are afraid to buy the scanners because they may be incompatible with future chips (4). In other words, most medical professionals are not able to read any implanted chips yet. And even if they could, how would they able to know if a critically injured person is implanted with one? There is no way to know, unless you scan each and every person.
The biggest, most broad-based, and hardest to quantify social cost to implanting humans with identification chips is that of privacy. The privacy area encompasses an awful lot of sub-areas and sub-disadvantages, but in general many people are afraid that the chips will lessen or completely destroy personal privacy. Sometimes people think that this is okay - for instance to track sex offenders. But on the whole people are greatly worried that privacy will become a thing of the past (7). William Safire, a New York Times columnist, writes "...Hospitals would say: How about a chip providing a complete medical history in case of emergencies? Merchants would add a chip for credit rating, bank accounts, and product preferences, while divorced spouses would lobby for a rundown of net assets and yearly expenditures. Politicians would like to know voting records and political affiliation. Cops, of course, would insist on a record of arrests, speeding tickets, E-Z pass auto movements and links to suspicious Web sites and associates (3)."
Many people fear putting out their entire life history for anyone with a scanner to see. The microchip technology has the capability to only be used for medical uses and it also has the capability to be used for wide-scale national identification. Those are two ends of the spectrum. But all uses, most people agree, will in some way lessen personal privacy. The question becomes one of where the line is drawn and how much privacy people are willing to give up. Lee Tien from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an advocate of privacy, says "The problem is that you always have to think about what the device will be used for tomorrow...It's what we call function creep. At first a device is used for applications we all agree are good but then it slowly is used for more than it was intended (7)."
Thus, one can argue that the social disadvantages of human identification chips, are the same as or similar to its benefits. For instance, some may believe that implanting an elderly person that has Alzheimer's disease is a grand idea and would provide benefits to the person, but at the same time believe that it is an invasion of privacy and as far as society is concerned is of grave concern.
Hand in hand with privacy concerns are legal issues relating to society and governments.
LEGAL AND GOVERNMENTAL ISSUES
In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks on America, support has been growing for a reliable national identification system. It seems like it might not be a big jump from a chip based on medical safety to one based on security. From there, it doesn't seem far until a chip will be used for national identification of which the implantation is either voluntary or forced. According to Charlotte Twight, professor of economics at Boise State University, human identification chips may sound like a ludicrous idea at first but she says that over time people will get used to them. "Over half of the population now supports some form of national identification. If Americans accept a national ID system as they accepted SSN's [Social Security Numbers], and if the intrusiveness of such a system expands as did government-mandated SSN usage, ten years from now the idea of a national microchip system may not seem as alien and repugnant as it does today. As with SSN's, people will get used to it (3)."
Jeffry Rosen, an associate professor as well as legal affairs editor of The New Republic, believes that there will be a lot of little databases that will eventually combine into one huge database. This database will have information about virtually everyone in the world. Larry Ellison, the founder and CEO of Oracle Corporation, also believes that this will happen and he wants it to happen now. Ellison wrote in a Wall Street Journal article, "The single thing we could do to make life tougher for terrorists would be to ensure that all the information in myriad government databases was integrated into a single national file." He has proposed that the United States government adopt a national identification database system and he has offered to provide the software to make it work (3).
Governments may end up playing a very crucial role in the implantation of identification chips, in some way, shape, or form; whether it be implanting inmates in prisons or implanting the entire population at large. It will most likely be governments that establish and control for what purposes and how often identification chips are used. Many people believe that putting this control in the hands of politicians is scary. Some worry heavily about forced implantation, as might possibly be the case in a national identification system. This is also a legal issue. Applied Digital Solutions says that the line that they draw is that they would never sell their chips to companies that were going to coerce people into using it. They want it always to be a voluntary thing. They have even appeared on the religious television program, "The 700 Club" to assure people that the chip is not "the mark of the beast" described in the book of Revelation in the Bible (7, 1).
There may also end up being legal issues in relation to the validity of the information stored. What if for instance, a person's medical allergy information is invalid and emergency personnel work on the basis of this invalid information. That could turn into a very bad situation. The question also arises: How will an individual go about making changes to invalid information? Will this even be possible? Identity theft may become an even more commonplace activity, with people altering the information stored in the various databases.
There is no doubt about it. There are many issues to be considered in relation to governments and legal areas, but there are also issues to be considered in the ethical arena.
Many of the various ethical considerations that come into play when discussing the implantation of microchips have already been touched upon in previous sections, so this section will be a little more "bare" than some of the others. There are a large quantity of ethical considerations in regards to this technology. They are mostly based on the 6 most common questions of who, what, when, where, why, and how. Who should be implanted? What should they be implanted with and what should it be read with? When should they be implanted? Where they should be implanted? Why should they be implanted? And how should they be implanted (1, 7, 4). These are very important questions and ethically they must be considered.
Is it right ethically to force someone to be implanted, even if they are a sex offender of children? Would making medical information public cause ethical quandaries for doctors and affect their judgment? What are the ethical ramifications of governments or others always being able to track an individual's movement and location? And what about the age-old question of privacy?
The ethical dilemma of this technology is intense and unfortunately there are a wide variety of answers and opinions to many of the ethical questions raised by the technology.
In summary, the relatively new technology of human identification chips is extremely interesting and has many facets to it. It remains to be seen exactly where this technology will lead society...or where society will lead this technology. One thing is for certain: this technology will be around for quite some time. What we do with it is up to us as a society. The pages of the book are still being written.
1. "A Microchip Makes Its Mark: VeriChip & the Beast." CBN News. Accessed July 24,
2. "An ID Idea: Microchips Under Your Skin." Newsbank Infoweb. The Miami Herald.
March 2002. Accessed July 22, 2002. http://infoweb.newsbank.com
3. Chowka, Peter. "First Humans Receive Biochip Implant." May 15, 2002. Accessed
August 2, 2002. http://www.iahf.com/other/20020516.html
4. "Hype Surrounds 1st Chip Implants." Newsbank Infoweb. The Miami Herald. May
2002. Accessed July 22, 2002. http://infoweb.newsbank.com/
5. "Microchips in Pets? Foes Howl." Newsbank Infoweb. The San Diego Union-Tribune.
March 2001. Accessed July 22, 2002. http://infoweb.newsbank.com/
6. Twight, Charlotte. "Why Not Implant a Microchip?" February 7, 2002. Accessed
August 3, 2002.
7. "U.S. to Weigh Computer Chip Implant." Newsbank Infoweb. The Associated Press.
February 2002. Accessed August 3, 2002. http://infoweb.newsbank.com
8. "VeriChip Corporation." Accessed July 30, 2002.
9. "VeriChip Personal Identification System - Frequently Asked Questions." Accessed
July 30, 2002. http://www.adsx.com/faq/verichipfaq.html