Humans 'will be implanted with microchips'

All Australians could be implanted with microchips for tracking and identification within the next two or three generations, a prominent academic says. 

This VeriChip microchip contains identity and health information and is embedded under the skin. (AAP)

This VeriChip microchip contains identity and health information and is embedded under the skin. (AAP)

Michael G Michael from the University of Wollongong's School of Information Systems and Technology, has coined the term "uberveillance" to describe the emerging trend of all- encompassing surveillance.

"Uberveillance is not on the outside looking down, but on the inside looking out through a microchip that is embedded in our bodies," Dr Michael told ninemsn. 

Microchips are commonly implanted into animals to reveal identification details when scanned and similar devices have been used with Alzheimers patients. US company VeriChip is already using implantable microchips, which store a 16-digit unique identification number, on humans for medical purposes. 

"Our focus is on high-risk patients, and our product's ability to identify them and their medical records in an emergency," spokesperson Allison Tomek said. "We do not know when or if someone will develop an implantable microchip with GPS technology, but it is not an application we are pursuing."

Another form of uberveillance is the use of bracelets worn by dangerous prisoners which use global positioning systems to pinpoint their movements. But Dr Michael said the technology behind uberveillance would eventually lead to a black box small enough to fit on a tiny microchip and implanted in our bodies. 

This could also allow someone to be located in an emergency or for the identification of corpses after a large scale disaster or terrorist attack. "This black box will then be a witness to our actual movements, words — perhaps even our thoughts —-and play a similar role to the black box placed in an aircraft," he said. 

He also predicted that microchip implants and their infrastructure could eliminate the need for e-passports, etags, and secure ID cards. "Microchipping I think will eventually become compulsory in the context of identification within the frame of national security," he said.
Although uberveillance was only in its early phases, Dr Michael's wife, Katina Michael — a senior lecturer from UOW's School of Information Systems and Technology — said the ability to track and identify any individual was already possible.

"Anyone with a mobile phone can be tracked to 15m now," she said, pointing out that most mobile phone handsets now contained GPS receivers and radio frequency identification (RFID) readers. "The worst scenario is the absolute loss of human rights," she said. 

Wisconsin, North Dakota and four other states in the US have already outlawed the use of enforced microchipping. "Australia hasn't got specific regulations addressing these applications," she said. "We need to address the potential for misuse by amending privacy laws to ensure personal data protection."

Uberveillance has been nominated for Macquarie Dictionary's Word of the Year 2008.

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Citation: Josephine Asher, "Humans 'will be implanted with microchips'", ninemsn.com, January 30, 2009.

Addendum: The following comment was provided but was not included in the final production of the article for reasons of space and readability. I provide here regardless.

  • "Technology is not foolproof. That’s one of the paradoxes of these surveillance systems," Katina Michael said. "Our ethical and legislative discourse lags far behind the diffusion and application of location based services. "There needs to be some public discourse and debate."

  • Dr Katina Michael recently received a grant from the Australian Research Council to research and propose new regulations to address these new technologies. "Implants is only one small component of the research - the main things we’re investigating relate to consumer mobile location records and data protection, socio-ethical dilemmas related to social networking applications based on the tracking of other human beings and privacy.

  • "Where do we stop and where do we begin? We have to be very careful at this early point as the new capabilities and their effects on society are relatively untested," Katina said.

Vote 1 uberveillance: UOW term in running for 2008 Word of the Year

16 Jan 2009 | Kate McIlwain

uberveillance
(say 'oohbuhvayluhns)
noun. an omnipresent electronic surveillance facilitated by technology
that makes it possible to embed surveillance devices in the human
body. Also, überveillance.
--

A word invented by UOW researchers has made it into the Macquarie Dictionary and, along with 91 other new words, is in the running to become the 2008 Macquarie Word of the Year.

Uberveillance in practice: Mr Amal Graafstra has two radiofrequency

The word uberveillance was coined in 2006 by UOW Honorary Senior Fellow Dr MG Michael and the concept has been further developed together with UOW senior lecturer Dr Katina Michael.

The first time the term was used by Dr Michael was in a guest lecture he delivered on the “Consequences of Innovation”.

Drs Michael and Michael had been researching the trajectory of ‘beneath-the-skin’ surveillance technologies that could identify and locate individuals.

The duo said the word simply ‘came out’ in a moment of inspiration, when Michael was searching for words to describe the embedded technologies. They said the term “surveillance” didn’t describe the full extent of the technological capabilities available today.

“Michael could find no other term but to bring together the German prefix “über” with the French root word “veiller” to describe the exaggerated surveillance conducted by governments in the name of national security,” Dr Katina Michael said.

“Michael has always had an affinity with words from some earlier studies in linguistics and his
success in having his poetry published in a number of Australia’s major literary journals.”

“We needed a word to describe the profoundly intrusive nature of such technologies and it was no longer about Big Brother looking down, but rather about Big Brother on the inside looking out,” she said.

Some research concerning uberveillance has so far included studies on the privacy, trust and
security implications of chip implants (e.g. Alzheimer’s patients), the socio-ethical implications of pinpoint location based services, an exploration of the factors motivating ‘underground
implantees’ to embed technology in their body; and looking at the trade-offs between privacy,
value and control in radio-frequency identification applications like e-passports and e-tollways.

The term and associated research has attracted attention from the media and academic community in its three-year lifespan, but being put into the Macquarie Dictionary has special significance. 

“To get it recognised in Australia’s official dictionary was for us an absolute thrill,” Dr Katina Michael said.

“It clearly evidences to the impact of our work… especially given the list of words is international and includes terms that have been in use for much longer.

“We do not know who nominated the word, or how it got onto the list, but it is without a doubt one of the outcomes we will hold as a major achievement,” she said.

2008 Word of the Year is awarded to the word that gains the most votes from the public – so
Katina and Michael are urging UOW staff and students to log on, improve their vocabularies, and support UOW research.

How to vote:

  1. Go to the Word of the Year page.
  2. Click on VOTE NOW and scroll to the TECHNOLOGY tab.
  3. Click on the Uberveillance button.
  4. Enter your email address.
  5. Press submit.

Citation: Kate McIlwain, January 16, 2009, "Vote 1 uberveillance: UOW term in running for 2008 Word of the Year", UOW Media, https://media.uow.edu.au/news/UOW053997.html

The year of climate porn and fanta pants

Erik Jensen January 8, 2009

macquarie-dictionary.jpg

LAST year began in excess and ended in disaster, if the words it contributed to the Macquarie Dictionary are any indication. The past year was one of flashpacking and toxic debt, of wellness tourism and the GFC. Those, alongside 91 other words and phrases, were added in 2008 to the Macquarie Dictionary's online edition.

"It says there was incredible smugness and consumption and then something hit it in the vitals and that made it sound silly and selfindulgent," the poet and Macquarie committee member, Les Murray, said of the list. 

"There were two big things that happened in 2008. One you can't use because it's a proper noun, and that's Obama. The second was subprime."

The editor of the Macquarie Dictionary, Susan Butler, said the influence of America was again large on the list of words she selected. But the British fanta pants "from the orange-coloured soft drink … with reference to pubic hair as the indicator of hair colour" was a notable exception.

The big trend for the year was the growth of environmental language: of ecocentrism, referring to the philosophy in which the ecosphere is more important than an organism or human  activity; of plastic soup, referring to a mass of plastic on an ocean gyre; and of climate porn, referring to alarmist predictions about the progress of global warming.

"There's 19 categories rather than 17 because environment had to be split into two," Ms Butler said. "And then it is in politics as well." 

Looking through the list of words, Mr Murray said lifestreaming (the online recording of one's daily life) sounded better than what it meant.

Uberveillance (omnipresent electronic  surveillance through devices embedded in the body) had more future than present.

And water footprint (the amount of fresh water used by a country, business or individual) was his pick for beauty. 

Readers of the Macquarie are encouraged to vote online for their favourite word, from which a people's choice will be announced in February.

The pick from 2007 was password fatigue, referring to the feeling encountered when a vast number of passwords renders a user unable to remember any of them.

This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2009/01/07/1231004105770.html

Erik Jensen, January 8, 2009, "The year of climate porn and fanta pants", Sydney Morning Heraldhttp://www.smh.com.au/articles/2009/01/07/1231004105770.html

MG Michael's Research on Uberveillance

Dr MG Michael with his new book From Dataveillance to Uberveillance and the Realpolitik of the Transparent Society. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI

Dr MG Michael with his new book From Dataveillance to Uberveillance and the Realpolitik of the Transparent Society. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI

Dr MG Michael, studies the social implications of technology, including the way governments can use it to intrude on the lives of citizens. The term ‘‘uberveillance’’ means an exaggerated surveillance of citizens, an above and beyond omnipresent 24/7 version using tracking technologies which are embedded within the body. Think of it as Big Brother on the inside, looking out.

It is an emerging area of information and communications technology which preoccupies me.

However, if the powers behind some of the intrusive surveillance technologies which I am studying do not pause to consider both the trajectory and consequences of the
new ‘‘machinery’’ they are building, then we are in for a bumpy ride and the effects will potentially be catastrophic.

I am not a naysayer per se, but that’s how I see things as they now stand. This is not to say that technology is not affording us some amazing and groundbreaking possibilities, especially in the areas of biomedics, communications and, of course, business information systems.

I am certainly not a neo-Luddite. But I do not buy into the glossy and predictably misleading publicity of where this ‘‘computer age’’ is supposedly taking us. I genuinely doubt, based on past and present evidence, that we are about to enter the cornucopia of an electric world.

On a more positive note, our work is about promoting discourse among the academic disciplines, the various sectors of the community and the public itself which is a critical and significant stakeholder in this discussion which is shaping both our immediate future and the civilisation to come.

I have been contemplating the social implications of technology from within an apocalyptic framework and narrative for almost 25 years, and have travelled the world during that time listening and speaking to recognised experts in their respective fields.

This group includes both religious persons and those who are firmly fixed to the empirical side of things. It is a truly extraordinary and revealing mix. People might be surprised with some of the points of agreement.

There are several strong connections between the desert and city that we often altogether miss, or choose to ignore.

My research focus extends to:

  • modern interpretations of scripture and the Apocalypse of John;
  • the historical antecedents of modern cryptography;
  • the auto-ID trajectory;
  • uberveillance and Big Brother;
  • data protection, privacy and ethics related issues;
  • biometrics, radio frequency identification and chip implants;
  • national security and government policy;
  • and more broadly the system dynamics between technology and society.

Each one of these subjects intensely fascinates me. There is a noticeable cross-disciplinary indication here; we are finding this more and more in perceived ‘‘monolithic’’ disciplines such as engineering and computer science.

My passion extends to teaching, writing papers, and presenting at conferences. But particularly teaching, above all else. 

I have been invited to present at international conferences and have published a number of papers in the disciplines of IT, bioethics, and biblical studies. More recently we have been given the honour to deliver a paper in the high profile 29th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners which was held in Canada, alongside such keynotes as Michael Chertoff, Secretary, US Department of Homeland Security.

Dr MG Michael is an honorary fellow at the University of Wollongong’s School of Information Systems and Technology.

Q&A


Best part of your research?

Sharing my work in class with my students at the University of Wollongong and listening to what they have to say; meeting and exchanging ideas with colleagues both locally and internationally; working closely with my wife, Dr Katina Michael, who is the driving force behind this funded research collaboration; and educating and regularly surprising myself with new bits of information and knowledge.

What did you want to be when you were a kid?

Lots of things! One of these, the dream to become a policeman, I actually fulfilled for a short period. I also liked to make believe that my bedroom was a spaceship and that I was an astronaut taking off into the heavens, heading for the Moon.

Has your career followed a straight line?

Positively not. I found myself in the IT world through an unbelievable twist of fate. I really am the proverbial ‘‘accidental tourist’’. In previous incarnations I have been a police officer, high-school teacher, soldier, and clergyman. I have moved about a bit and have found that institutional hierarchies and I do not always see eye-to-eye. I have a habit of asking too many questions! But there are other things which I think matter a whole lot more, and those things I have tried to let follow a straight line. However, like most people, I do not always succeed.

What would you change?

Ten years ago I probably would have said quite a few things; and five years prior to that a whole lot more. But I have increasingly come to the realisation that providence really does know best, and that all things do work together for good. We just need to hang in there.

Advice for young researchers:

Passion for your work; endurance in reaching your goals; humility with your successes; and the desire to become ‘‘builders’’. Also to read as many books as you can, to make this a life-long habit. Be predisposed to biographies. And to make sure that you surround yourselves with suitably qualified mentors. 

Next adventure:

Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero. (Seize the day, trust least to the future).

Citation: MG Michael, "MG Michael's Research on Uberveillance", Illawarra Mercury, November 27, 2007.