Go Get Chipped - Part 1

For over 20 years, MG Michael and I have been researching the social implications of microchipping people. In 1996 as part of a final year major project in my Bachelor of Information Technology degree at the University of Technology, Sydney, I researched the potential for government identifiers to be implanted in the human body, with supervisor Prof. Jenny Edwards [1].


Influenced greatly by the early works of Roger Clarke [2] and Simon Davies [3] in Australia, I became especially interested in “where to next?” A single image I had come across in the Library of Andersen Consulting headquarters in North Sydney while in my cooperative employment semester in April 1996, has stuck with me ever since. Depicted in a cartoon figure was the body of a man, with a computer “head.” No eyes, no ears, just a blank cathode ray tube (CRT). The headline of that report read: “The Human Metaphor” [4]. In December of that year I found myself working as a graduate engineer at Nortel Networks.

In 1997 Eduardo Kac became the first human to implant himself with a non-medical device in the performance art work titled “Time Capsule” [5]. After injecting an implant above his left ankle, Kac went on to register himself on a pet database. This performance piece was streamed live on the Internet. One year later in 1998 the company I worked for sponsored the Cyborg 1.0 project at the University of Reading and continued support for Cyborg 2.0, alongside Tumbleweed Communications, Computer Associates, and Fujitsu [6]. I learned of this cyborg project through the company's global hardcopy newspaper. I remember sitting at my desk turning to the back page and reading a short column about how implantables were destined to be our future. At the time I had begun a Ph.D. on the topic of “Smart Card Innovation in Government Applications,” but quickly redirected my focus to holistically study major automatic identification innovations, inclusive of chip implants. Dr. Ellen McGee and Dr. Gerald Q. Maguire, Jr., had begun to research ethical and policy issues around implantable brain chips as early as 2001, but I was more preoccupied in how this technology could be used for everyday banking and telecommunications applications as a blackbox implantable in the arm or upper torso.

Prof. Kevin Warwick had become the first academic to be implanted with a cylindrical transponder that not only identified him but also located him in his building [7]. After rigging up the corridors of the Cybernetics Department at the University of Reading, an interactive map would locate Warwick as he walked throughout the building. His office was also rigged up with readers, so that his presence was somewhat ambient — as he walked into the room, the lights would switch on and his computer would turn on to his favorite webpage. In 1999 British Telecom's Peter Cochrane wrote Tips for Time Travellers in which he described a microchip implant akin to something he noted would be a “soul catcher chip” [8]. The year Cochrane's monograph was published, the Auto-ID Center consortium at M.I.T. formally began research on the “Internet of Things,” a term coined by former Procter and Gamble assistant brand manager, Kevin Ashton [9]. Cyborg 2.0 followed on March 14, 2002, when Warwick had a one hundred electrode array surgically implanted into the median nerve fibers of his left arm [10]. Here Warwick showed the potential of brain-to-computer interfaces (BCI) but also the potential of brain-to-brain interfaces (BBI). During this whole period, I was busy working on projects related to telecommunications deregulation across Asia, seeing firsthand the right angle turn from voice to data, and the explosion of mobile telephony and later 3G mobile infrastructure. The world was changing rapidly and I knew I had to finish my Ph.D. as soon as possible. As chance would have it, I headed for academia.

Post the dot.com crash, we were all shocked by scenes such as those of September 11, 2001. It did not take long for people to emphasize the importance of security, and how to address risk on a large scale. Companies like Applied Digital Solutions [11], and later VeriChip Corporation [12] and Positive ID [13], described the potentiality of a unique ID being embedded in the right tricep. This was no myth. Applied Digital Solutions received U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for a personal health record identifier in 2004 [14]. The CEO of the VeriChip Corporation (and later PositiveID), Scott Silverman, pointed to the many benefits of such an implantable. He noted the possibility of such a device being tethered to an electronic bracelet being able to help first responders get out of hopeless situations, like a burning tower that was about to collapse. There were 2996 people killed and more than 6000 others wounded in the September 11 attacks. Silverman emphasized the potential for saving people who were incapacitated and could not tell first responders about their condition [15]. Situations could range from people having an allergy to penicillin, diabetics requiring insulin, or even wander alerts for those suffering from dementia. VeriChip was successful in some high profile chippings, such as New Mexico's Attorney General Rafael Macedo and some of his staff [16], in addition to the Baja Beach club chain in both Rotterdam and Barcelona [17], and later in the small number of voluntary employee chippings at Citywatcher.com [18].

Apart from my thesis in 2003 [19], numerous papers written by academics became available on the chipping phenomenon in 2004 [20], and 2005 [21], including a landmark monograph titled SpyChips [22] written by Dr. Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre. There were several attempts to chip Alzheimer's patients at aged care facilities in 2007, which did not go ahead en masse [23]. Christine Perakslis and the late Robert Wolk wrote pioneering papers on microchipping humans after the VeriChip was FDA approved [24]. In the same year, the EU Opinion N° 20 on “Ethical Aspects of ICT Implants in the Human Body” was published, written by The European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies (EGE) chaired by the Swedish philosopher, Göran Hermerén, and adopted on March 16, 2005 [25]. Among the Group were Professors Rafael Capurro and the late Stefano Rodotà.

For the greater part of the mid 2000s and later, we observed a growing number of biohackers who chose to dabble in “DIY” (do-it-yourself) implantable technology. The Tagged Forum was set up to accommodate fellow tinkerers at the beginning 2006, which became the “go” to” place for learning about how to tinker with RFID implants and what applications to build with them. The Forum soon attracted more attention than it cared for, and was targeted with posts proclaiming members were heralding in the “mark of the beast.” As a result, The Tagged went underground, so they could be left alone to continue tinkering. Building on cross-disciplinary study from as far back as the 1980s [26], MG Michael coined the term “uberveillence” in 2006 denoting embedded surveillance devices, while teaching at the University of Wollongong [27]. An entry on uberveillance later appeared in the Macquarie Dictionary in 2008 [28], proliferating quickly across the web including in The New York Times [29]. In that same year, Pawel Rotter et al. published their paper titled: “RFID implants: Opportunities and challenges for identifying people” in IEEE Technology and Society Magazine (vol. 27, no. 2).

In 2007 M.G. Michael interviewed Professor Kevin Warwick [30], and biomedical device expert Professor Christopher Toumazou, Director of the Biomedical Institute at Imperial College London [31]. Among the popular implantees of that time were Amal Graafstra, Jonathan Oxer and Mikey Skylar. Graafstra was the author of RFID Toys, and was featured in an IEEE Spectrum issue in 2007 [32]. We invited him as a speaker to the IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society in 2010 [33] which was dedicated to implantables, and co-wrote a paper on implants published in the Proceedings of the conference [34]. An excellent debate on the future of microchipping people using RFID was chaired at ISTAS'10 by William A. Herbert [45]. Months prior to ISTAS'10, I interviewed both the IT Manager responsible for creating the e-payment application at Baja Beach Club [35], and the consultant to Citywatcher.com [36]. These primary interviews formed key foundations into the larger inquiry. By 2009 [37] and 2014 [38], Michael and Michael had authored and co-edited large reference volumes on the social implications of chip implants and dozens of peer reviewed research papers with colleagues and students at UOW (e.g., [39]). In between these two studies, Dr. Mark Gasson had also co-edited and excellent Springer publication in 2012, on Human ICT Implants: Technical, Legal and Ethical Considerations [40]. He was the General Chair of ISTAS'10 at the University of Wollongong, and presented a paper on the potential for humans bearing implants to become infected with a computer virus [41]. At this time, it was clear that IEEE SSIT was drawing in specialists not just in cross-disciplinary fields, but also encouraging proponents of the technology to consider the sociotechnical implications.

In mid-August 2017, I returned from the outstanding IEEE Sections Congress 2017 that was hosted in the International Convention Center in Sydney. I cannot speak highly enough of this event. I presented as part of a panel chaired by SSIT Past President Greg Adamson on “Addressing Social Challenges to Technology” and spoke on the attention that non-medical implantables have received in recent times when compared with the previous decade. Out of the 50+ people present in the room only 4 people raised their hands when I asked the question “would anyone in this room get chipped” [42]? It is important to note that all of the people present were tech-savvy, many of them were entrepreneurs, working in industry or in academia. I contrasted this figure with the very unbelievable figures cited in The Australian that said a survey of 10 000 Pricewater-houseCoopers employees across major economies found 70 per cent would consider using “treatments to enhance their brain and body if this improved their employment prospects” [43]. I made the point that we need to challenge such “claims.” I also made the point that IEEE SSIT has been working in the emerging technology domain asking critical questions since its creation and has had much to do with the study of medical and non-medical embedded devices. That for us as SSIT members, speaking on emerging technologies is not new, and researching them using a plethora of approaches is something we are entirely comfortable with — legal, technical, societal, economic, etc. [44]. I urged people in the room to become members of SSIT, to bring their expertise to such urgent subject areas, to discuss the pros and cons, and add know-how where it was needed — e.g. spectrum, regulatory, health, business, etc. In the December 2017 issue of T&S Magazine, I will continue with a Part 2 to this editorial covering progress in the implantables domain since 2013 urging members to construct projects that will further interrogate the complexities of our technological trajectory.

We should remember and celebrate the contributions of our members and non-members to our Magazine, our annual conference and workshops, specific projects, and papers. Please search our corpus of outcomes on our upgraded web site which now contains a lot of free material, cite them in the future, and challenge people when they tell you that “x” or “y” is “brand new” or “has never been researched before.” It is a golden opportunity to connect people to SSIT, and bring in new expertise and volunteers to focus on our Five Pillars. We must know ourselves better, if we are to expect others to know who we are and what we stand for.


1. K. Michael, The future of government identifiers, Sydney, Australia:School of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, University of Technology, Nov. 1996.
2. R. Clarke, "Information technology and dataveillance", Commun. ACM, vol. 31, no. 5, pp. 498-512, 1988.
3. S. Davies, Big Brother: Australia's Growing Web of Surveillance, East Roseville, NSW:Simon & Schuster, 1992.
4. R. Tren, "Trends in the cards industry", Andersen Consulting, pp. 1-99, 1995.
5. E. Kac, "Event in which a microchip (identification transponder tag) was implanted in the artist's left ankle" in Time Capsule, São Paulo, Brazil:Casa das Rosas Cultural Center, 1997, [online] Available: http://www.ekac.org/timec.html.
6. K. Warwick, M. Gasson, B. Hutt et al., "The application of implant technology for cybernetic systems", Arch Neurol., vol. 60, no. 10, pp. 1369-1373, 2003.
7. K. Michael, E. Lawrence, J. Lawrence, S. Newton, S. Dann, B. Corbitt, T. Thanasankit, "The automatic identification trajectory" in Internet Commerce: Digital Models for Business, Australia:Wiley, pp. 131-134, 2002.
8. P. Cochrane, Tips for Time Travelers, McGraw-Hill, pp. 7-57, 1999.
9. About the lab, Auto-ID Labs, [online] Available: https://autoid.mit.edu/about-lab.
10. Kevin Warwick, Project Cyborg 2.0: The next step towards true Cyborgs?, [online] Available: http://www.kevinwarwick.com/project-cyborg-2-0/.
11. J. Lettice, "First people injected with ID chips sales drive kicks off", The Register, [online] Available: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2002/06/10/first_people_injected_with_id/.
12. K. Albrecht, "Implantable RFID chips: Human branding", CASPIAN, [online] Available: http://www.antichips.com/what-is-verichip.htm.
13. Positive ID, Wikipedia, [online] Available: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PositiveID.
14. Medical devices; general hospital and personal use devices; Classification of implantable radiofrequency transponder system for patient identification and health information, Department of Health and Human Services: FDA, [online] Available: https://www.fda.gov/ohrrns/dockets/98fr/04-27077.htm.
15. "Implantable personal verification systems", ADSX, [online] Available: http://www.adsx.com/prodservpart/verichip.html.
16. Mexican officials get chipped, Wired, [online] Available: https://www.wired.com/2004/07/mexican-officials-get-chipped/.
17. K. Michael, M.G. Michael, "The diffusion of RFID implants for access control and epayments: A case study on Baja Beach Club in Barcelona", Proc. IEEE Int. Symp. Technology and Society, pp. 242-252, 2010.
18. K. Michael, MG Michael, "The future prospects of embedded microchips in humans as unique identifiers: The risks versus the rewards", Media Culture and Society, vol. 35, no. 1, pp. 78-86, 2013.
19. K. Michael, The technological trajectory of the automatic identification industry: the application of the systems of innovation (SI) framework for the characterisation and prediction of the auto-ID industry, 2003.
20. K. Michael, MG Michael, "Microchipping people: The rise of the electrophorus", Quadrant, vol. 49, no. 3, pp. 22-33, Mar. 2005.
21. K. Michael, A. Masters, "Applications of human transponder implants in mobile commerce", Proc. 8th World Multiconterence on Systemics Cybernetics and Informatics, pp. 505-512, Jul. 2004.
 Show Context  
22. K. Albrecht, L. McIntyre, "Spychips: How major corporations and government plan to track your every purchase and watch your every move" in Nelson Current, Nashville, TN:, 2005.
23. "Alzheimer's patients lining up for microchip", ABC News, [online] Available: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/OnCall/story?id=3536539.
24. C. Perakslis, R. Wolk, "Social acceptance of RFID as a biometric security method", Proc. Int. Symp. Technology and Society, pp. 79-87, 2005.
25. Ethical aspects of ICT implants in the human body: Opinion presented to the Commission by the European Group on Ethics, [online] Available: europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-05-97_en.pdf.
26. M.G. Michael, "Demystifying the number of the beast in the Book of Revelation: Examples of ancient cryptology and the interpretation of the “666” conundrum", Proc. IEEE Int. Symp. Technology and Society, pp. 23-41, 2010.
27. M.G. Michael, "On the virth of Uberveillance", Uberveillance.com, [online] Available: http://uberveillance.com/blog/2012/2/15/on-the-blrth-of-uberveillance.html.
28. M.G. Michael, K. Michael, S. Butler, "Uberveillance" in Fifth Edition of the Macquarie Dictionary, Australia's National Dictionary, Sydney University, pp. 1094, 2009.
29. Schott's Vocab, Uberveillance, The New York Times, [online] Available: https://schott.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/04/uberveillance/.
30. M.G. Michael, Kevin Warwick, The Professor who has touched the future, Feb. 2007, [online] Available: http://www.katinamichael.com/interviews/2014/1/23/the-professor-who-has-touched-the-future.
31. M.G. Michael, Christofer Toumazou, The biomedical pioneer, Oct. 2006, [online] Available: http://www.katinamichael.com/interviews/2014/1/23/the-biomedical-pioneer.
32. A. Graafstra, "Hands on - How RFID and I got personal", IEEE Spectrum, [online] Available: http://spectrum.ieee.org/computing/hardware/hands-on.
33. A. Graafstra, Invited Presentation on RFID Implants IEEE ISTAS '10, [online] Available: https.//www.youtube.com/watch?v=kraWt1adY3k.
34. A. Graafstra, K. Michael, M.G. Michael, K. Michael, "Social-technical issues facing the humancentric RFID implantee sub-culture through the eyes of Amal Graafstra", Proc. IEEE Symp. on Technology and Society, pp. 498-516, 2010.
35. K. Michael, Serafin Vilaplana, The Baja Beach Club IT Manager;, [online] Available: http://www.katinamichael.com/interviews/2015/3/20/r8vw5tpv8rr9tieeg7kgvej2racs5v.
36. K. Michael, Gary Retherford, The microchip implant consultant, [online] Available: http://www.katinamichael.com/interviews/2015/3/20/gary-retherford-the-microchip-implant-consultant.
37. K. Michael, M.G. Michael, Innovative Automatic Identification and Location-Based Services: From Bar Codes to Chip Implants., Hershey, PA: IGI, 2009.
38. M.G. Michael, K. Michael, Uberveillance and the Social Implications of Microchip Implants: Emerging Technologies., Hershey, PA:IGI, 2013.
39. A. Friggieri, K. Michael, M.G. Michael, "The legal ramifications of micro-chipping people in the United States of America-A state legislative comparison", Proc. IEEE Int. Symp. Technology and Society, pp. 1-8, 2009.
40. M.N. Gasson, E. Kosta, D.M. Bowman, Human ICT Implants: Technical Legal and Ethical Considerations, The Hague, The Netherlands: Springer, 2012.
41. M.N. Gasson, "Human enhancement: Could you become infected with a computer virus?", Proc. IEEE Int. Symp. Technology and Society, pp. 61-68, 2010.
42. K. Michael, "The pros and cons of implantables", IEEE Sections Congress 2017, Aug. 2017, [online] Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2J3NqhVmWuc.
43. E. Hannan, S. Fox Koob, "Worker chip implants ‘only matter of time’", theaustralian com, Aug. 2017, [online] Available: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/technology/worker-chip-implants-only-matter-of-tlme/news-story/If9f9317cc84f365410a089566153f51.
44. Jeremy Pitt, This Pervasive Day: The Potential and Perils of Pervasive Computing, London, U.K.:World Scientific, 2012.
45. "The debate over microchipping people with ICT implants", IEEE ISTAS 2010 @ UOW - Panel Discussion YouTube, Mar. 2011, [online] Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dl3Rps-VFdo.


implants, Radiofrequency identification, Mobile communication, National security, Surveillance, Integrated circuits

Citation: Katina Michael, 2017, "Go Get Chipped?: A Brief Overview of Non-Medical Implants between 1997-2013 (Part 1)", IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, 36(3), pp. 6-9.

Can Good Standards Propel Unethical Technologies?

Between 2010 and 2016 I accepted a voluntary post representing the Consumers Federation of Australia (CFA) on the standardization of the forensic analysis process [1]. The CFA represents most major Australian national consumer organizations that work together to represent consumer rights.

The committee I was on was Standards Australia's “CH041 — Forensic Analysis” focused on the collection, analysis, and storage of materials as well as interpretation and reporting of results for forensic purposes (Figure 1). The Committee's scope included digital forensics, DNA, soil examination, toxicology, document examination, audio and video analysis, drug analysis, blood alcohol examination, chemical trace evidence, clandestine laboratory investigations, fire and explosion investigation, ballistics, forensic biology, forensic botany, crime scene investigation, fingerprint identification, vehicle examination, shoe and tire impressions, toolmarks, evidence recovery, exhibit storage, bloodstain pattern interpretation, forensic anthropology, forensic entomology, forensic odontology, and forensic pathology. Over a period of six years, six standards were created in the Australia and New Zealand landscape [2] (Table 1).

Figure 1. Bus drivers across the West Midlands were equipped with mini DNA kits in 2012 to help police track anyone who spit at them or fellow passengers.“Spit kits”—which feature swabs, gloves and hermetically sealed bags—allow staff to take saliva samples and protect them from contamination before being sent for forensic analysis. Samples are stored in a refrigerator before being sent for forensics analysis, with arrest plans put in place should returning DNA results point to a suspect already known to police.Date: Nov. 23, 2012, 16:03. Courtesy of Palnatoke, West Midlands Police.

Figure 1. Bus drivers across the West Midlands were equipped with mini DNA kits in 2012 to help police track anyone who spit at them or fellow passengers.“Spit kits”—which feature swabs, gloves and hermetically sealed bags—allow staff to take saliva samples and protect them from contamination before being sent for forensic analysis. Samples are stored in a refrigerator before being sent for forensics analysis, with arrest plans put in place should returning DNA results point to a suspect already known to police.Date: Nov. 23, 2012, 16:03. Courtesy of Palnatoke, West Midlands Police.

All of the meetings I attended were very well organized, and provided adequate materials with enough time to digest documentation. Queries were dealt with in a very professional manner both via email and in person. The location of these standards meetings happened at the Australia New Zealand Policing Advisory Agency (ANZPAA) in Melbourne Victoria — perhaps a non-neutral location, but regardless important as a hub for our gatherings. There was adequate funding provided to allow people to come together several times a year to discuss the development of the standards and the rest was achieved via email correspondence. Of course, there were a number of eminent leaders in the group with a discernible agenda that dominated discussions, but for all intents and purposes, these folks were well-meaning, fair, and willing to listen. It was obvious that the standardization process was paramount to those using forensic data on a day-to-day basis.

Representatives who served on that committee had diverse backgrounds: police officers, analysts from forensic laboratories, lawyers, statisticians, consumer representatives, and academics in the broad area. I never felt like I was ever asking a redundant question, people spent time explaining things no matter how technical or scientific the content. Members of the committee were willing to hear about consumer perspectives when key points had to be raised, but for some the importance of the topic was circumvented by the need to get the forensics right in order for criminals to be brought to justice.

In March of 2010, I graduated with my Masters of Transnational Crime Prevention degree in the Faculty of Law at the University of Wollongong. My major project was a study of the European Court of Human Rights ruling S. and Marper v. The United Kingdom [3], under the supervision of former British law enforcement officer, Associate Professor Clive Harfield. The European Court of Human Rights sitting as a Grand Chamber was led by President Jean-Paul Costa. S. and Marper complained under Articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights [4] that the authorities had continued to retain their fingerprints and cellular samples and DNA profiles after the criminal proceedings against them had ended with an acquittal or had been discontinued. Both applicants had asked for their fingerprints and DNA samples to be destroyed, but in both cases the police refused [5]. My involvement in the enactment of forensic standards in the Australian landscape was to ensure that Australia did not end up with blanket coverage surveillance of the populace, as has happened in the United Kingdom where about 6 million people (1 in 11) have their DNA stored on the national DNA database (NDNA), and over 37% of black ethnic minorities (BEM) are registered on the database with indefinite DNA retention of samples or profiles [6].

I learned a lot about standards setting through the Forensic Analysis project. Although I had studied the theoretical importance of standards in the process of innovation, and I had spent some time in an engineering organization during a peak period of telecommunications standards and protocol developments, I never quite realized that a standard could propel a particular product or process further than was ever intended. Of course the outcome of the BETAMAX versus VHS war has gone down in engineering folklore [7], but when standards have human rights implications, they take on a far greater importance.

Although international standards usually take a long time to bring into existence (at least 2 years), at the national level if there is monetary backing, and a large enough number of the right kind of people in a room with significant commercial or government drivers, a standard can be defined in a fairly straightforward manner within about 1 year. No matter the query, issues can usually be addressed or abated by industry representatives if you can spend the time necessary on problem solving and troubleshooting. Consumer representatives on standards panels, however, unlike paid professionals, have very limited resources and bandwidth when it comes to innovation. They usually have competing interests; a life outside the standards environment that they are contributing to, and thus fall short from the full impact they could make in any committee that they serve if there was financial support. In the commercial world, the greater the opportunity cost of forgoing the development of a standard, the greater the driver to fulfil the original intent.

And thus, I was asked at the completion of my CFA role by the convenor Regina Godfredson, Standards Co-ordinator of the CFA Standards Projects, whether or not I had any thoughts about future standards because “standards” were one thing that the CFA received funding for, in terms of the voluntary contributions of its representatives and membership being seconded to standards committees.

Table 1. Forensic analysis — Australian standards.

Table 1. Forensic analysis — Australian standards.

As Regina and I brainstormed, I described a few projects pertaining to emerging technologies that required urgent attention from the consumer perspective. But the one that stuck out in my mind as requiring standardization was non-medical implants in humans (Figure 2). I kept thinking about the event report I cited in 2007 published on the MAUDE database of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) web site, for the “removal of an implant” that acted as a personal health record (PHR) unique ID [8]. In 2004, the company VeriChip had an implant device approved by the FDA for use in humans [9]. The device was to be inserted in the right tricep, but as applications for access control and electronic payment were trialled, the device soon found itself in people's wrists and hands for usability [10]. Still that event report had got me thinking. How could a company (or for that matter a government administration) be so inept in creating a device for implantation with no removal process? Of course, had the VeriChip device not been related to any health application, it would not have required any FDA approval whatsoever, which is equally problematic when ethical questions are considered.


Figure 2.

A surgeon implants British scientist Dr. Mark Gasson in his left hand with an RFID microchip (Mar. 16, 2009). Mark's Ph.D. scholarship with Prof. Kevin Warwick was sponsored by the author's former employer Nortel Networks. Photo taken: March 16, 2009, 14:44:22. Photo courtesy of Paul Hughes.

The questions that stem from this mini case are numerous. But perhaps the most important one is: does a standard set by a standards or regulatory body open the floodgates to propelling a given innovation forward, even if that innovation is controversial or even viewed as risky or unethical by the community at large? I had to ask myself the pros and cons of spearheading such a standard into Australia and New Zealand. Standards at the local level begin to gather momentum when they are recognized by the Australian Standards organization, but more so when they are picked up and highlighted by the International Standards Organisation (ISO). There are also no commensurate “ethics applications” accompanying the submission of human augmentation devices, as noted by Joe Carvalko, a U.S.-based patent attorney and implant recipient [11].

Did I really wish to be involved in such a process when I believe deeply, for anything other than therapeutics and prosthesis, there should not be a standard? Do I think this is the future of e-payments being sold to us? There have been countless campaigns by VISA to show us the “mini-Visa” [12] or the contactless VISA “tap and go” system or the VISA embedded in our phone or e-wallet or even smartwatch. Do I think we should believe the companies pushing this next phase? No, I do not. As consumers we do have a choice of whether or not to adopt. As a technology professional do I wish to be the one to propel this forward? Absolutely not. Does it mean it will never happen? No, it doesn't.

As I continued my conversation with Regina Godfredson, I realized deeply, that while CFA would get some major attention in funding for being leaders in this space, the negative would be that we would also be heavily responsible and accountable for what would come out of the group as we would be the driving force behind it. The consumer side of me says “get in there quick to contribute to the discussion and push the importance of ethics within an information technology implant scenario.” The academic side of me says sit back and let someone else do it, but make sure to be ready for when this may take place (and it is taking place right now). Just yesterday, I received a telephone call from one of Japan's leading games suppliers who wants to integrate the human augmentation scenario into Deus Ex's, “Mankind Divided” game, to be launched in Australia in the last week of August with an implants shopfront.

The conversation with the publicist went something like this: “Hello Katina. I note you are one of the leading researchers on the topic of the socio-legal-ethical implications of implants. Look, I want to know, if there are any legal issues with us launching a campaign for our new game that includes an implantation shop. I've rung everyone I can think of, and everyone keeps passing me on to someone else and cannot give me a direct answer. I've tried the Therapeutic Goods Administration here, but they say they don't care because it is not a medical device. I've looked up laws, and I can't seem to find anything on implants for non-medical applications. I've spoken to police, and ditto they don't seem to care. So what do you think?” It goes without saying that that 50 minute conversation ended up being one of the most stimulating non-academic discussions I've had on the topic. But also, I finished by saying read Katherine Albrecht's Bodily Integrity Act in draft since 2007. The publicist kept stating: “I hope from this engagement to put forward a framework allowing for human implants.”

My concern with going forward has naught to do with my ability to answer very complex biomedical ethical questions as I've thought about them for over 20 years. My concern has much to do with whether or not we should even be dabbling with all of this, knowing what we know of the probable uberveillance trajectory. I am sure I could create some very good standards to some very unethical value-laden technologies.

I will not say much about what is an ethical or unethical technology. I will simply say that pervasive technologies have an intentionality, and they have inherent qualities that can be used positively or negatively. Talking to social shaping of technology experts, I would be labeled as a follower of the technological determinist school of thought. But clearly here, when we investigate the piercing of the skin, we have a complexity that we've never before faced in the non-medical commercial space. It crosses the boundaries of negligence, consent, and human rights, which we cannot ignore or treat as just another run-of-the-mill technological innovation.


1. Consumers Federation of Australia, [online] Available: http://consumersfederation.org.au/.

2. CH-041 - Forensic Analysis, [online] Available: http://www.sdpp.standards.org.au/ActiveProjects.aspx?CommitteeNumber=CH-041&CommitteeName=forensic%20Analysis.

3. Case of S. and Marper v. The United Kingdom, 2008, [online] Available: https://www.coe.int/t/dghl/standardsetting/dataprotection/Judgrnents/S.%20AND%20MARPER%20v.%20THE%20UNITED%20KING-DOM%20EN.pdf.

4. Article 8 ECHR, 2016, [online] Available: http//echr-online.into/article-8-echr/.

5. K. Michael, , "The road from S and Marper to the Prum Treaty and the implications on human rights" in Cross-Border Law Enforcement: Regional Law Enforcement Cooperation - European Australian and Asia-Pacific Perspectives, Routledge, pp. 243-258, 2012.

6. K. Michael, "The legal social and ethical controversy of the collection and storage of fingerprint profiles and DNA samples in forensic science", pp. 48-60, 2010.

7. A.R. Dennis, B.A. Reinicke, "Beta versus VHS and the acceptance of electronic brainstorming technology", MIS Quart, vol. 28, pp. 1-20, 2004.

8. MAUDE Adverse Event Report VeriChip Corporation - VeriMed Patient Identificator - VeriChip Implant, July 2007, [online] Available: http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfMAUDE/Detail.CfM?MDRFOI_ID=962453.

9. 21 CFR Part 880 [Docket No. 2004N-0477] Medical Devices; General Hospital and Personal Use Devices; Classification of Implantable Radiofrequency Transponder System for Patient Identification and Health Information, [online] Available: http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/98fr/04-27077.htm.

10. A. Masters, K. Michael, "Lend me your arms: The use and implications of humancentric RFID", Electronic Commerce Research and Applications, vol. 6, pp. 29-39, 2007.

11. J. Carvalko, K. Michael, "Crossing The Evolutionary Gap", Joseph Carvalko Speaks With Katina MichaelOn His Fiction Piece, July 2016, [online] Available: https//www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4JyVCba6VM.

12. "Visa introduces contactless mini card making payments faster and more convenient than ever", Business Wire, Aug. 2006, [online] Available: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20060316005263/en/Visa-Introduces-Contactless-Mini-Card-Making-Payments.

Citation: Katina Michael, Can Good Standards Propel Unethical Technologies? IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, Volume: 35, Issue: 3, Sept. 2016, pp. 6 - 9.

Predicting the socioethical implications of implanting people with microchips

Privacy, security, trust, control and human rights are all concerns that need to be addressed before widespread diffusion of advanced identification technologies. Implants for humans are not new... Today we have even realised the potential for microchip implants to be embedded inside the human body for the purpose of acting as unique lifetime identifiers (ULIs).

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