The Social Implications of Radio-Frequency IDentification

Good afternoon everyone. My name is William Herbert, and for identification purposes only I am the Deputy Chair of the New York State Public Employment Relations Board. You may be wondering why am I here.  In fact, my scholarship has been involved with issues involving RFID, GPS and other forms of technology, as a legal perspective.  I was asked to moderate, I think partially, this panel because of my background in labour relations, in which we have conflicting views frequently in labour, and my agency’s role is frequently brought in to try to bring some kind of bridges between varying positions on issues, at least in the workplace.  We have over the past two days been very fortunate to hear very diverse viewpoints on the issue of RFID.  And I thought it was appropriate that we try to bring those diverging voices together in seeking to bring some degree of bridging of these different ideas to try to aim towards bringing some degree of harmony about a perspective, or at least the first steps towards that perspective.  As Roger Clarke mentioned earlier in his talk, there is a need for this kind of dialogue and I think this panel will be a very good first step or second step in that process.

So the question I'm going to be asking for the panellists today is: can societies develop a balanced response to radio-frequency identification (RFID)?  And when I use the word RFID, I'm discussing both the technology, not limited to implants, but just the technology itself.  So with that question, I'm going to first ask Roger to discuss whether societies can develop a balanced response to RFID technology.

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DangerousThings - Amal Graafstra Presents at ISTAS10

Public reaction – angry. I get a lot of angry emails, calls, and things like that. There are some people that wish I’d just go away, and there are others claiming that I am somehow helping “the conspiracy”. This is just kind of a little thing that I thought up, about the cycle of fear that I’ve noticed when talking to people. So when people come to me and they’re angry about things, I try to engage them in conversation but usually they’re afraid of misconceptions about the technology. They think that somehow the GPS satellites are communicating with this tag – which really only has a three-inch read range – and somehow reporting my location, “Can’t they track you?” … the elusive “they”.

So you know, they’re afraid of something they’re not sure of and they take action because they’re afraid. Then people that know about it respond, usually poorly. This interaction reveals to the angry people that they really don’t know what it is they’re talking about. And what’s interesting is that they have a new fear then, and that fear causes them not to want to learn about the technology. They don’t want to engage, because they somehow feel that if they learn about it, maybe their fears are unfounded or whatever. But it’s a cycle that repeats quite often. So the concept is that, you know, somehow now your body is up for sale, and companies and governments are vying for it.

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Serafin Vilaplana - The Baja Beach Club IT Manager

Well, the owner-manager of the Baja Beach Club visited the United States, and he got the idea while traveling over there and hearing about the trial of the chip implant that was linked to electronic health records. These implants were first being used for the elderly and the sick.

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Gary Retherford - the Microchip Implant Consultant

When I saw the product that they had I became fascinated with it. Even more fascinated when I realised after, I guess, maybe through the Google searches that I had done, and I came across Verichip – and so many hits associated with some of the evangelicals slants in the market … and I think that kind of intrigued me, because I’m thinking: “Wow, where’s this coming from?” So I actually had reached out to Verichip to find out about their asset tracking and simultaneously was going to ask about their implantable microchip product for access control because I was in the access control business. Interesting enough though, at the very same time and I’m talking almost down to the minute, I was getting ready to have lunch with the owner of the company called Citywatcher and I reached out to them because they were offering this service of doing video surveillance on servers and they were doing some work in the city of Cincinnati. So as I literally had my phone in my left hand getting ready to introduce myself to a contact at Verichip, I was reaching out with my right hand to shake the hand of the president and little did I know at that point that roughly a year later, what was going to eventually end up happening. So then I began talking to Verichip. We talked about their asset tracking component for the art, but I also started to ask them about their access control system and when I was beginning talking to them and their sales people/person that they had in charge, I realised that they had a little bit of a flaw, in my opinion, in the way they were trying to market their product. What they were trying to do was create a whole access control system and sell it as an entire system and I said, “Well, I have a suggestion for you. My suggestion is that in doing that you just take the reader and they can integrate with everybody else’s access control.

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Conversation with a Minor about Chips and Things

Definitely. Well, I mean, me coming from a Greek Orthodox background, like, for example, earrings and tattoos and stuff like that are considered not allowed, against our religion to do it. But then again, people still do it, a lot of Orthodox people do tattoos... I’ve got earrings. It’s just … it’s just up to you. I mean, it depends how religious you are, and I mean, it’s not like, you know, the religion’s going to stop you from living your life, because you only live once, so you might as well try to experience as much as you can.

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Kevin Warwick - The Professor who has Touched the Future

Very good question. I did get a surge, it was an electrical current. In terms of how it actually felt, this is going to be a silly answer, but this is how it is- it felt like my wife was communicating with me. It's like you are listening to me on the phone now, how does it feel like to hear me talking? So when I received the first pulse knowing that was from my wife, but my brain knew that it was my wife, the signal that I was looking forward to.

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