News and Commentary

Company Embeds Microchips In Employees

If your employer offered to embed a microchip in your hand that would make it easier to log into your computer and buy sodas from the vending machine, would you do it, knowing full well that your privacy could be compromised?

At Three Square Market, a technology company, as many as 80 employees have a microchip embedded in the skin between their thumb and index finger allowing them to access doors, computers, and a host of other machines by waving their hands.

“When Patrick McMullan wants a Diet Dr Pepper while he’s at work, he pays for it with a wave of his hand,” writes Technology Review in describing the product. “McMullan has a microchip implanted between his thumb and forefinger, and the vending machine immediately deducts money from his account.”

No larger than a grain of rice, the chip enables employees to bypass menial tasks like typing a password to log into a computer and inserting money into a vending machine. The idea originated in Sweden, where citizens have begun to embed chips in themselves for similar purposes. Some people would call this laziness; Patrick McMullan, president of Three Square Market, says it’s convenience.

“You get used to it; it’s easy,” McMullan says.

Some employees described using the chip 10 to 15 times a day. Others are so used to the product that they notice a stark difference when the chip reader has technical difficulties.

Obviously, the big elephant in the room here is one of privacy. The possibility of a company monitoring their employees through company-issued smart phones is one thing, but an embedded microchip could give companies the ability to monitor their employees wherever they go, at anytime.

Nick Anderson, an associate professor in public health sciences at the University of California, Davis, agrees this could be a problem, as could the possibility of strangers with chip readers gaining access to your personal information.

“You can sniff it if you’re at a bus stop,” says Anderson.

Right now, embedded chips are just an experiment that few have embarked on, but a new day may dawn in which they become commonplace. Far too many questions will arise.

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