Microchipping at work: US employees get voluntarily implanted at staff 'chip party'

Updated yesterday at 10:54am

Employees of a Wisconsin technology company who received a microchip implant in their hand said they felt only a brief sting during the procedure.

Key points:

  • Employees of a Wisconsin company have been voluntarily microchiped
  • It is the first US appearance of technology that is already available in Europe
  • The microchips will allow employees to log onto the company system, open doors and buy snacks

Three Square Market, also known as 32M, said 41 of its 85 employees agreed to be voluntarily microchipped during a "chip party" at company headquarters in River Falls yesterday.

The technology will allow employees to open doors, log onto computers or buy breakroom snacks by simply waving their hand.

"We came across this and saw it being used in other societies, we said why not us?" 32M chief operating officer Patrick McMullan said.

"Why not us, bring it and provide a solution that we can use for so many different things."

PHOTO: A microchip is shown compared with a dime at Three Square Market in Wisconsin. (AP: Jeff Baenen)

Melissa Timmins, vice-president of sales at 32M, said after learning more about the technology she decided to try out the chip.

"I'm excited to see what this can do," Ms Timmins said.

"I was a little apprehensive about more of the health part of it and actually implanting something into my body.

"But from day one I was excited about what we could do with the technology itself and where it could go for our company."

Ms Timmins said she hoped to eventually use it to get into her car or go shopping.

Noelle Chesley, associate professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin, said microchipping could give employers more power over their staff.

"Is it really voluntary when your employer is asking you if you would like to be microchipped?" Ms Chesley said.

"Will there come a day where people who prefer not to be microchipped won't get certain jobs?"

Ms Chesley said she thought implanting microchips into all people would be the wave of the future.

Company leaders said this was the first US appearance of technology already available in Europe.

Three Square Market paid for the $300 microchips.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-08-02/microchip-workers-hold-chip-party/8765934

University of Wollongong technology researcher Katina Michael said it had to be the choice of individuals whether or not to adopt new technology.

Dr Michael, who is also a board member of the Australian Privacy Foundation, also feared we were entering dicey territory if we began predicting a person’s behaviour based on data.

“Just because someone has the characteristics or profile patterns that fit a particular group, it doesn’t mean ‘x’ will happen,” she said.

“A person might be functioning fine during the work day but an employer might say we can tell from physiological data that they’re suffering from depression, so we should cancel their ability drive a truck.”

She also feared bosses would easily be able “wash their hands of problems” and shift liability to their employees so as to not damage their company brand rather than tackling the underlying causes of issues like drug addiction and mental illness.

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Security in data centers has always been a major concern for operators and owners, especially in collocation sites. But how far should you extend security measures? In 2006, it was widely reported that Cincinnati based video-surveillance firm CityWatcher.com, mandated any employee that worked in its secure data center to get implanted with one of VeriChip's implants. Two of its employees received the implants.
However, there are now concerns over the health implications of implanting RFID chips in individuals, and wider public safety concerns. In June, the state of Wisconsin passed a bill making it illegal for anyone, including employers and government agencies, to implant such microchips into people without their consent. The state became the first to institute such legislation when Governor Jim Doyle (D) signed it into law on May 31.
State Rep. Marlin Schneider (D) introduced the legislation, Assembly Bill 290, on April 4, 2005, primarily to protect individual rights so companies couldn't use the technology to track employees' every move.
The LA Times has reported that the California State Senate has passed a bill that goes one step farther, by banning employers from requiring employees to receive implants.
Indeed, security researcher Jonathan Westhues has shown how a hacker can clone a chip and theoretically duplicate someone's implant to access a secure area.

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The corporate tenants of a Swedish high-tech office complex are having RFID chips implanted in their hands, enabling access through security doors, as well as services such as copy machines, all without PIN codes or swipe cards.
The employees working at Epicenter, a 15,000-square-foot building in Stockholm, can even pay for lunch using their implants -- just as they would with the swipe of a credit card.
The owners of Epicenter say they want the facility to be a "magnet for fast growing digital companies and cutting-edge creative corporate initiatives."
"The fact that some people at the Epicenter office have chosen to replace their key fobs with NFC implants is their own personal choice," said Hannes Sjöblad, founder of Bionyfiken, a Swedish association of Biohackers. "It's a small, but indeed fast-growing, fraction which has chosen to try it out."
Sjöblad said there are also several other offices, companies, gyms and education institutions in Stockholm where people access the facilities with implanted RFID/NFC chips (near field communication).

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Workers at companies based in the Swedish tech business incubator Epicentre are having microchips implanted into their hands.
Up to 400 members of Stockholm's Epicenter will be able to have the highly controversial radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips inserted into their bodies.
The chips, which are the size of a grain of rice, store personalised security information, similar way to an office security pass or a chip-and-pin credit card. They enable people to open doors and operate photocopiers – and in the future make payments – with a wave of their hand.
"We already interact with technology all the time," said Hannes Sjoblad, who is in charge of implanting the chips and has an implant containing his business card details. "Today it's a bit messy: we need pin codes and passwords. Wouldn't it be easy to just touch with your hand? That's really intuitive.
"We want to be able to understand this technology before big corporates and big government come to us and say everyone should get chipped – the tax authority chip, the Google or Facebook chip."
RFID chips have already provoked controversy in the US following rumours President Obama's regime would require every US citizen to have one implanted, as part of health care reforms.
BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones raised doubts of the wider social acceptability of RFID implants after having one of the chips inserted while visiting Epicenter.
"All sorts of things are possible," he wrote. "Whether it becomes culturally acceptable to insert technology beneath our skin is another matter."
But Sjoblad, a chief disruption officer at the Swedish biohacking group BioNyfiken, believes the use of RFIDs is just the beginning.
"I believe we have just started discovering the things we can do with this. There is huge potential for life-logging. With the fitness-tracking wearables at the moment, you have to type in what you are eating or where you are going," he said. "Instead of typing data into my phone, when I put it down and tap it with my implant it will know I am going to bed.
"Imagine sensors around a gym that recognises, for instance, who is holding a dumbbell via the tag in your hand. There is an ongoing explosion in the Internet of Things. The sensors will be around for me to be able to register my activity in relation to them."
Ben Slater, an advertising director from Australia, had a near-field communication (NFC) microchip injected into his hand just before the launch of the iPhone 6.

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The chip allows employees to open doors and use the photocopier without a traditional pass card

Want to gain entry to your office, get on a bus, or perhaps buy a sandwich? We're all getting used to swiping a card to do all these things. But at Epicenter, a new hi-tech office block in Sweden, they are trying a different approach - a chip under the skin.

Felicio de Costa, whose company is one of the tenants, arrives at the front door and holds his hand against it to gain entry. Inside he does the same thing to get into the office space he rents, and he can also wave his hand to operate the photocopier.

That's all because he has a tiny RFID (radio-frequency identification) chip, about the size of a grain of rice, implanted in his hand. Soon, others among the 700 people expected to occupy the complex will also be offered the chance to be chipped. Along with access to doors and photocopiers, they're promised further services in the longer run, including the ability to pay in the cafe with a touch of a hand.

On the day of the building's official opening, the developer's chief executive was, himself, chipped live on stage. And I decided that if was to get to grips with this technology, I had to bite the bullet - and get chipped too.

The whole process is being organised by a Swedish bio-hacking group which was profiled by my colleague Jane Wakefield recently. One of its members, a rather fearsome looking tattooist, inserted my chip.

First, he massaged the skin between my thumb and index finger and rubbed in some disinfectant. The he told me to take a deep breath while he inserted the chip. There was a moment of pain - not much worse than any injection - and then he stuck a plaster over my hand.

Before trying my chip out, I wanted to know more about the thinking behind it. Hannes Sjoblad, whose electronic business card is on his own chip and can be accessed with a swipe of a smartphone, has the title chief disruption officer at the development. I asked him whether people really wanted to get this intimate with technology.

"We already interact with technology all the time," he told me. "Today it's a bit messy - we need pin codes and passwords. Wouldn't it be easy to just touch with your hand? That's really intuitive."

When I tested my chip, I found that it was not all that intuitive - I had to twist my hand into an unnatural position to make the photocopier work. And while some of the people around the building were looking forward to being chipped, others were distinctly dubious. "Absolutely not," said one young man when I asked him if he'd sign up. An older woman was more positive about the potential of the technology but saw little point in being chipped just to get through a door.

But Hannes Sjoblad says he and the Swedish Biohacking Group have another objective - preparing us all for the day when others want to chip us. "We want to be able to understand this technology before big corporates and big government come to us and say everyone should get chipped - the tax authority chip, the Google or Facebook chip." Then, he says, we'll all be able to question the way the technology is implemented from a position of much greater knowledge.

I've returned to Britain with a slightly sore hand - and a chip still under my skin which has my contact details on it. Not that useful, but no doubt more sophisticated chips will soon replace wearable technology like fitness bands or payment devices, and we will get used to being augmented. All sorts of things are possible - whether it becomes culturally acceptable to insert technology beneath our skin is another matter.