Social-technical issues facing humancentric RFID implantees

Social-technical issues facing the humancentric RFID implantee sub-culture through the eyes of Amal Graafstra

Abstract

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags and transponders have traditionally been used to identify domesticated animals so that they can be reunited with their owners in the event that they stray. In the late 1990s, industry started to investigate the benefits of using RFID to identifying non-living things throughout the supply chain toward new efficiencies in business operations. Not long after, people began to consider the possibilities of getting RFID tag or transponder implants for themselves. Mr Amal Graafstra of the United States is one of the first, and probably most well-known ‘do it yourselfer’ (DIY) implantees, who enjoys building customized projects which enable him to interact with his private social living space. Since 2005, hundreds of people have embarked on a mission to interact with their mobile phones, their cars, and their house via a chip implant, providing personalized settings for their own ultimate convenience. This paper presents some of the socio-technical issues facing the RFID implantee sub-culture, namely health and safety, privacy, security, regulation, and societal perceptions. The paper concludes with a list of recommendations related to implantables for hobbyists.

Section 1. Introduction

While some cultures embrace the practice of decorating the human body with tattoos and brands, others still perform the age-old art of scarification [1]. Of greater currency today however is the act of body piercing using a plethora of metallic materials, including titanium. Some have even opted to modify the body in outward appearance by using large subdermal or transdermal implants on their heads and forearms [2]. But beyond the purely cosmetic body modifications that some subcultures engage in [3], there are now techno-hobbyists who are transforming the manner in which they interact with their personal social living space through the use of functional high-tech devices known as radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags and transponders.

On the 22nd of March 2005, Mr Amal Graafstra was implanted with his first radio-frequency identification tag [4]. Anecdotal evidence from other do-it-yourselfer implantees agree that Graafstra has been a pioneer in this field, doing things “first” and also “better” than most other implantees meddling in the high-tech art. In the Beginning of 2006 Graafstra even published a book about the applications he had built [5]. Other high profile implantees [6], some of whom preceded Graafstra, include: Kevin Warwick (University of Reading academic) [7], Scott Silverman (CEO of VeriChip Corporation) [8], Rafael Macedo de la Concha (Mexico's Attorney General) [9], Dr. John Halamka (Harvard Medical School's CIO) [10], Gary Retherford (employee at CityWatcher.com) [11], Mikey Sklar (a UNIX engineer) [12], Jonathan Oxer (a LINUX guru) [13], and Meghan Trainor (doctoral student and artist) [14]. This paper however is not concerned with professional “research-oriented” RFID implantees, such as Kevin Warwick, nor with consumers/customers who have been implanted with commercially available Veri Chip technology, nor with individuals who have used RFID for their artistic performances, such as Eduardo Kac [15]. Rather, this paper is concerned with understanding do it yourselfer (DIY) implantees who are usually technically-savvy citizens and are predominantly interested in novel convenience-oriented solutions. This paper focuses on the challenging socio-technical issues and questions that DIY implantees are faced with, related to health and safety, privacy, security, regulation and societal perceptions.

Section 2. Literature Review

A number of academic articles and book chapters have been published on the life and works of Amal Graafstra, including his own full-length book titled RFID Toys [5]. Graafstra featured in his own IEEE Spectrum article in 2007 [16] and several other academic works about him have been written between 2008 and 2009 [17], [18]. He has also figured in hundreds of popular stories in all forms of media-print, radio and television that have received worldwide coverage, e.g. [19], [20], [21], [22]. Most recently Fox News wrote about him [23] and the Discovery Channel interviewed him. While anyone in Graafstra's position would have probably commercialized their ideas by now, Graafstra remains content in pursuing things that are ‘fun’ rather than things which ‘make money,’ although he admittedly does have an entrepreneurial streak about him. Despite the attention, Graafstra remains level-headed, and it is clear upon speaking with him, that he is more about innovation than he is about becoming famous.

Section 3. Methodology

This paper takes on a non-traditional ICT methodological form in that it is written in two voices; Part A is written in the first person voice of Amal Graafstra where he describes events as a participant and Part B is written in the third person voice where Michael and Michael are relating events about Graafstra, and Graafstra is relating events about others. In 2007, Michael and Michael embarked on a full-length interview with Graafstra [24]. Some two years after the interview was conducted, the interviewers requested that Graafstra reflect on his own ideas and commentary as stated in the original interview transcript [25], and make amendments as he saw fit. Time is a very important element when one considers new radical technologies and applications, especially those that seem to evoke a great deal of interdisciplinary debate. Take the launch of the ENIAC in 1948 for instance, and the misconceptions that ensued [26], although few could have possibly predicted that such awesome machinery would find its way into humans.

In Part A, Graafstra’ s story is depicted “uncut”, and Michael and Michael do not interrupt the flow or stream of ideas but can be credited with evoking responses to questions that Graafstra is seldom asked. The usual media hype disappointingly focuses on whether Graafstra is the ‘devil’ and falls short of those all important philosophical questions about the future trajectory of technology. K. Michael has a background in information and communication technology (ICT) and law, while M.G. Michael has qualifications in philosophy, history and theology and has written on topics related to bioethics and the misuse of new technologies by society. The rich combination of backgrounds and experiences has brought about an interdisciplinary discussion between the three authors in Part B. It does not mean that the authors agree on all points, but new research should not necessarily bring about agreement, but debate toward further discussion. In some sense, this is what the IEEE ISTASIO Conference is about, respecting diverse opinions and looking at new technologies in an interdisciplinary manner that may help to shed light on future developments and how society is to absorb them.

3.1. Case Study: Amal Graafstra

According to Yin (1984, p. 23) a case study “investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context”. The case study in this paper is of a human subject, Mr Amal Graafstra. Graafstra can be considered a participant-researcher in this study while Michael and Michael act as independent observers of the subject within his real-life context.

3.1.1. Background

Amal Graafstra is the Director of Information Technology for OutBack Power Systems. He is the owner of several technology and mobile communications companies. Amal loves thinking up interesting ways to combine and apply various technologies in his daily life. A self-starter, Amal dropped out of community college and started his first company at the age of seventeen. The company was called The Guild, and it provided dial-up Internet access to customers, while small set-ups were still feasible.

Some years later, Amal started his second company Morpheus, which specialized in web hosting and web development. For some time the company did well, but as cheaper hosting services became available, it became more and more difficult to compete in the market. Amal then decided to rebuild Morpheus by supplying managed computing services to the medical industry. In parallel, Amal did some work for WireCutter, a wireless mobile messaging company that were involved in creating mobile marketing campaigns for various radio stations, sending SMS text messages to mobile phones. Graafstra decided to pour his heart and soul into the company he called txtGroups but this too was unable to make ends meet, and soon Twitter rapidly overtook txtGroups as a social text platform. His most recent employment is as the head of an information technology (IT) department where he enjoys creating novel and innovative solutions that enable the business to grow.

3.2. Interview

The interview conducted in 2007 between Graafstra (the subject) and K. Michael (the interviewer) was semistructured and contained 25 questions. The main themes addressed included:

  • Background (upbringing, schooling, qualifications, employment, age and place of residence)

  • Adoption of technology habits, value proposition for RFID implants, and prospects of commercialising intellectual property around humancentric chip implants

  • Motivations for going with an implantable technology as opposed to wearable or luggable device

  • Self-perceptions, whether he is a hobbyist or entrepreneur and what words, terms or phrases he uses to refer to himself (i.e. cyborg versus electrophorus)

  • Thoughts on implantation, who was to conduct the procedure, any barriers or challenges to overcome, and whether or not he had to ask permission to get the implant

  • Feelings on the actual implant process, how it made him feel, whether it was painful or painless and how he dealt with the aftermath of the implantation

  • Attitudes and perceptions towards the application of microchip implants in humans and ethical issues, discussed in terms of specific scenarios and stakeholders

  • Values on mandatory, voluntary, commercial and noncommercial and government-mandated humancentric applications pertaining to issues of consent, opting in/out

  • Views on the location of implantation, the type of tag that should be used, the durability of the tag, and its potential functionality

  • Experiences with Christians or civil libertarians who oppose his use of RFID and his counter-arguments to such notions as the fulfillment of prophecy/“mark of the beast”

  • Personal philosophical and spiritual perspectives

  • Knowledge on the prospect of RFID implant viruses spreading, relationship impacts, potential health risks and security breaches, and other general concerns.

3.3. Ethnography and Participant Observation

Graafstra was asked by Michael and Michael to write a reflection on the original transcript, in actual fact to take on the role of a participant observer. This reflection was integrated into the original transcript, forming Part A of this paper. The reflection remains ‘untouched’ save for changes in formatting and expression. These are the raw thoughts of Amal Graafstra, captured in an ethnographic style [27]: “[i]t is a distinctive feature of social research that the ‘objects’ studied are in fact ‘subjects’ … unlike physical objects or animals, they produce accounts of themselves and their worlds.” Michael and Michael have added relevant bibliographic sources to Part A, and in Part B the content from the original interview conducted with Graafstra is qualitatively analyzed to draw out anthropological and sociological orientations. It is here where the third person voice is used by the authors but where also, events related to Graafstra himself, are cited through direct quotation.

Part A-Participant Observation

In Part A, Amal Graafstra tells his DIY tagger story as a participant observer. He is both the object and subject of his narrative. Graafstra takes us on a tour of where and how it all began-his early interest in computing, in what he calls fun “projects”, and finally what led him to get an RFID tag implanted into his left hand in 2005. Graafstra then takes us on a journey of how he acquired his implant, and how it makes him feel to be a bearer of beneath-the-skin technology. He dedicates a great deal of space discussing health and safety issues relevant to RFID implants and concludes by emphasizing the importance for DIYers to take personal responsibility for their actions.

Section 4. In the Beginning…

Technology has always been an interest of mine. From a very early age I was doing what lots of other inquisitive toddlers were doing … tearing things apart out of curiosity and not being able to put them back together. I was intrigued with seemingly magical things. Wood blocks can only hold one's interest for so long. But a record player or a telephone, those things just held some kind of mystery that needed exploration.

It was not until third grade however, where two very unlikely set of circumstances occurred which introduced me to the boundless potential the world of computers had to offer. I had the privilege of going to a country school. It was literally nestled in a forest, the trees of which we would build forts in during recess. It was very small with only four rooms, one for each grade. Oddly enough, the third grade classroom had a PET computer in it - the only one in the entire school. It had no disk or cassette tape storage and no operating system, just a PET version of BASIC in read only memory (ROM). For the greater part, it sat unused in the corner, a simple and momentary curiosity for most… but not to me. I turned it on and got a simple flashing cursor. What could it mean? What does it want me to type? The mystery was just too great to resist, but without any book or instruction manual, or anyone who knew anything about it at the entire school, I did not get far at all and started to lose interest.

Luckily, that year the school started a new program called Reading Is Fundamental (R.I.F.), where each student was allowed to pick out and keep a free book twice a year. I loved choose-your-own-adventure (CYOA) books, and started picking through the piles to find all the CYOA books available. I noticed there were two books in my stack of potential keepers that said “Computer Programs” on the cover. As I thumbed through those two books I saw there was “programming code” for IBM and Apple II computers, and I wondered if the PET would understand any of it. I picked one out and brought it back to the classroom, and that is when the fun began. If either the IBM or Apple code had worked perfectly “as-is”, it may not have captured my imagination. The fact was, I had to ask for a PET programming book from the teacher, who did manage to track one down. With it, I could cross reference the code in the CYOA book with the PET BASIC book to make the code actually work. By the end of third grade, I was obsessed with the notion I could use a special language to tell the computer exactly what to do and it would do it. I felt like anything was possible! I immediately started begging my parents to buy a computer.

4.1. Technology and Having Fun

There is something special about the latest gadget that comes out or the next release of a fondly regarded software application. It is more than just being able to get a greater number of tasks done; it is also about exploring new possibilities. The creativity one can express through building solutions that work well and people use offers a sense of accomplishment and even pride. That building process might turn out to require creating an entirely new technology of some sort, but for most that process is about extending existing technologies in some way.

Typically, extending a technology is done through standardized channels such as software components, libraries, software development kits (SDKs), and application programming interfaces (APls). In the hardware realm one uses integrated circuits (ICs) with integrated functions, or entire original equipment manufacturer (OEM) hardware modules designed to be integrated into products. What I really love to do however is take an existing product and enhance it, sometimes using methods outside the typical channels. Some people might call that “hacking” but to me it is more about getting into the nuts and bolts of a product and making it do what you want it to do.

For example, I wanted to change out the deadbolt in the front door of my home to work without a key. I purchased an electronic deadbolt that worked with a key or by entering a PIN code by keypad. That was fine for a couple days, but the first time I had a handful of groceries and tried to enter the PIN code, I knew I wanted more. I wanted the deadbolt to unlock faster, without a key and without having to enter a PIN code. I just wanted it to know it was me and let me in, even if I had a handful of groceries. I ended up enhancing that electronic deadbolt to also accept RFID tags as a form of authentication. Later I expanded this idea further to allow a PC to log entries, allow me to set alerts, and even allow me to use other forms of authentication like email and text messages to unlock the door (great for letting neighbors in to check on your pets while you are away). There is no way I would be able to find a residential deadbolt that could do all that, let alone pay less than I did to build it myself.

4.2. Hobbyist or Entrepreneur?

I definitely have an entrepreneurial streak in me. I have started several service-based technology businesses and essentially worked for myself for 15 of the last 17 years or so. When it comes to RFID however, it's mostly just a hobby. I've done some consulting here and there, but when everyday people hear about my implants and the little projects I have built, they tend to ask me if I have any patents and/or plan to market some of these ideas.

The truth is most people have no idea what constitutes a good idea versus a patentable idea versus a marketable idea, or the amount of hard work and risk it takes to bring that little idea all the way to a market successfully. I have not had a good enough idea or met the right people yet with the business experience who could really take these things as far as they would need to go to be successful. Currently my now out-of-print niche market book RFID Toys has been the only commercial venture I have undertaken with regard to RFID, and for the time I have put into it I have basically made around $0.75 USD per hour. Not to mention the whole process was more stressful than it was fun. It seems to be a universal law that states “when you turn a fun hobby into a job, it usually stops being fun”.

So at this point I am much more content with running my little RFID forum, answering people's questions as best I can, helping to solve problems, and putting out some good quality examples others can use to get a basic understanding of hobbyist RFID.

Section 5. Getting the RFID Tag Implant

5.1. The Idea

When I think back to when I first heard about RFID implants, I was very young, perhaps seven or eight years old. I remember my mother telling me how pets were getting these new computer chips and that she did not think it was right. She, and basically everyone I grew up around, thought these things were evil and they would end up controlling humanity via satellite. I remember trodding around in the back yard contemplating the end of civilization as I knew it because of these “horrible devices”. I did not doubt that point of view or those technological misconceptions for quite some time.

The thought of RFID implantation did not resurface until years later when I was faced with the decision of whether or not to implant my own pets with a “tracking chip” (a term still used by vets which does not help dislodge ever-prevalent misconceptions about RFID implantation). By then though I was much more sensible about my approach to technology, and I thoroughly annoyed the veterinarian by asking a ton of technical questions he could not answer. After doing more research (without the aid of a content rich Internet in the early 90s) and really looking into how it worked, I had my pets implanted and I came away with a much better understanding of what the technology could and could not do.

Over a decade later, in March 2005, I found myself moving heavy equipment in and out of my office almost every day. My office door had one of those latches that locked every time it closed, and I really hated having to fish around for my keys all the time. That got me thinking about how archaic the idea of a standard metal key really was. A key is nothing more than a hunk of metal, cut with a certain pattern that identifies me as “authorized”. The typical key and lock system is also lock-centric, meaning the lock is the unique bit and each key that accesses it has to be duplicated from that unique key pattern. Once a unique key pattern is duplicated and distributed, tight control over that lock is essentially lost. I wanted a key-centric solution, meaning each key would be unique and that unique key could be used with various locks. Being unique myself, ideally I wanted that unique key to be me.

I started looking into biometrics, things like face recognition technologies and fingerprint readers. The problem I ran into was the fact that these solutions, when done the right way, were very expensive and resource intensi ve to implement. At the time, there were also serious and valid concerns over the security and reliability of biometric solutions. Also, because I would need to put the camera or fingerprint reader outside, I was also concerned about vandalism. At the time, there were not many reliable biometric options rated for outdoor use that could tell the difference between my real face and a picture of my face, or my fingerprint versus a latex glove fingertip filled with water pressed against the sensor where the remnants of my own fingerprint left on the sensor would betray me. However, I did find a variety of very inexpensive RFID readers, and writing my own software to work with them was a no-brainer. The only down side to RFID was the fact I had to carry around an access card. That got me thinking about pet implants again, and I realized I could get the benefits of RFID without having to carry around anything.

5.2. The RFID Tag Acquisition

The first thing I did was look into getting an actual pet tag implanted, but there were a few issues with pet tags. I discovered there were many different kinds of RFID, and they did not all play well with each other. As it turned out, I could not find any cheap readers that would read the pet tags, and nothing really existed in the OEM hardware space which would have allowed me to easily integrate the pet tag into a custom built access control solution. Another issue was that pet tags have a special porous “anti - migration” coating on them that is designed to allow flesh to grow into and lock the implant in place, making removal or replacement nearly impossible.

There was another option for RFID implantation; the Veri Chip. I had already heard about how the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had approved the VeriChip for implantation into humans, but the Veri Chip had the same issues pet tags had. Hardware options were very limited and expensive, and the tags also had anti-migration coating on them. I also found out that you must be registered in the Veri Chip database to receive one of their implants, which I had issues with considering my goals and intended uses were all private in nature.

Left hand with EM4102 implant and USB reader

So, I figured I would just start with a basic keycard system and find some cheap RFID readers that were easy to interface with or were designed as OEM hardware I could easily integrate into my project. I found several reader options that read EM4102 based tags, so I started looking around for RFID tags based on the EM4102 chip. What I found just about made me jump out of my seat. I found a website that sold EM4102 based RFID tags that came in a glass ampoule form factor just like the pet tags! In addition, these did not have any coating on them. I immediately ordered the reader hardware and a few glass tags (figure 1).

 

While I waited for the equipment to arrive, I started calling tag manufacturers to find out what differences there might be between the glass tags I ordered (which were not designed for implantation) and implantable pet and human glass tags. It turns out there were only a few insignificant differences, the first of which was that tags did not have the anti-migration coating on them. Second, the EM 4102 based tags did not use the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) animal implant data protocol, which I did not care about either. Finally, they were not manufactured or sold as sterile equipment. After several difficult conversations with various manufacturers, I found out the glass used in the tags I ordered and the animal (pet/livestock/human) implantable tags were the same stuff. That was good enough for me, so as soon as the tags arrived, I was arranging my first implant procedure. At the time I was running a managed computing service designed for medical clinics and had several doctors as clients. Once I confirmed the glass tags worked, I scheduled the implant procedure with one of my clients, a cosmetic surgeon, and started building projects. At the time, I did not tell anyone that I was scheduled for an implant procedure, partly because I was so busy creating my first access control project and partly because at the time I did not consider getting an RFID tag implanted in my left hand to be that novel of an idea. A couple days later after a five minute procedure my left hand was RFID enabled and I had a basic access control system built for my office door.

5.3. A Cyborg or an Electrophorus?

People often ask if I feel any different now, or if I can feel the tags under my skin. Over 5 years later, the answer to both questions is no, not really. I do not feel any different, nor can I feel either implant unless I physically poke one with my finger. In fact, I often forget they are there until I have to use them.

At first it was kind of weird though, and during times of boredom I found myself mindlessly poking at them and feeling the implants under my skin. There was this kind of this cool factor to using them. I would put my hand to the front door and it would unlock, and people would be like “What!? Hold on … what just happened?” and at the time I kind of did feel like a cyborg of sorts.

But over time, the novelty wore off, and now they are just the useful tools I always wanted them to be. Even the interesting conversations I used get into with people regarding safety, security, privacy, religious concerns, and the future of the technology itself now tend to be redundant and repeat themselves constantly. Even my definition of what a cyborg is has changed.

The well-known Professor Kevin Warwick underwent the first human implantation of an RFID tag long before I even thought about doing it. He called that project Cyborg 1.0, which captured both headlines and imaginations. My definition of cyborg is a bit different however. A person with a cochlear implant or even a pace maker, those people are truly mixing technology with biology to become a cybernetic-organism (cyborg). What I have done is simply move an RFID tag from my pants pocket to a skin pocket. There is no biological interaction, and to me that interaction is what defines a cyborg. Michael and Michael [28] distinguish between what is traditionally considered a cybernetic-organism and DIY implantees who are merely “bearers” of technology (i.e. an electrophorus). I think that it is a good idea to have a term that separates us from cyborgs.

So why even bother with implanting a tag in the first place? A lot of people also ask me why “take the risk” putting it under my skin? Why not wear a watch or ring or something with a tag in it? The simple answer is-I won't wear a watch or a ring for very long without losing it. It would be like wearing a backpack everywhere you went; you would just want to take it off all the time due to it being uncomfortable. When I looked at what was possible with glass encased tags and the history these types of RFID implants had with pets, I really did not think twice about getting one implanted. Not to say that I did not do my research first [29], but the actual decision to get a tag implanted was made in a matter of seconds, and I have never regretted it.

Section 6. Is Implanting an Rfid Tag in the Body a “Safe” Practice?

Safety is a big issue, and is still a concern for every do-it-yourselfer (DIY) tagger that is considering or has already undergone an implantation procedure. Given DIY tagging is done through the sheer will of one's own accord, every tagger must take full responsibility for their decisions and actions, their health, safety, and the ultimate outcome of their RFID implantation endeavors.

Table 1. Primary safety concerns for DIY taggers

As the DIY community grows, and more people get non-FDA approved glass tags implanted in non-FDA approved locations, so too the concerns over the safety of RFID implants will grow (Table 1).

6.1. Sterilization

A common method for sterilizing medical equipment is to place it into an autoclave, where heat and pressure destroy any pathogens. The temperature reached inside an autoclave however, is well above acceptable operational and storage specifications for most RFID tags. Due to this, I did not autoclave my glass tags. Both my implants were sterilized by soaking them in a liquid antiseptic for a few minutes before the implantation procedure. As others learnt of what I had done and expressed interest in getting a RFID implant, I suggested they avoid using the autoclave to sterilize their tags as the heat may damage them.

I later performed a test, placing five 2×12mm EM4102 based glass tags in an autoclave for a full one hour cycle. All five tags came out sterile and in working order. On the RFID Toys forum, other users reported similar success with the autoclave and EM4102 tags, leading me to now suggest purchasing at least two tags and putting them through the autoclave prior to implantation. Of course, testing the tags after the sterilization process and before implantation is strongly suggested.

I believe read-only EM4102 tags are able to withstand the high temperatures of the autoclave because the IC chips typically have their unique IDs laser etched into ROM at the factory. Other tag families such as the Philips HITAG with writable memory blocks may not fare as well with such high temperatures, and significant damage to the writable blocks may occur.

6.2. Location

For his Cyborg 1.0 project, Professor Kevin Warwick decided to implant a glass encased tag into the upper inside of his left arm, beneath the inner layer of skin and on top of the muscle [31]. The location seemed to offer a safe haven for the fragile glass casing. Nine days later the tag was removed without complication.

Unlike the typical VeriChip or pet identification applications where a handheld reader is brought in close proximity to the implant, I use my implants in applications where the tag must typically be brought to a fixed reader. Because the normal operational range of small cylindrical glass tags is anywhere from one to four inches, I chose to implant both my tags (one in each hand) into the webbed area between my thumb and index finger, just under the dermis layer. This location allows me to easily position my RFID tags very close to a reader, while still providing an amount of soft tissue to cushion and protect the tags from blunt force impact. Being just under the skin and not in muscle tissue also allows for easy removal or replacement. Most, but not all, DIY taggers have chosen the same location for their implants.

6.3. Migration

Glass encased RFID tags which are designed for implantation in animals or humans typically have an anti-migration coating of some sort affixed to the glass casing. This porous material allows the implantee's flesh to grow into the material which stops the tag from moving around in the body.

The primary purpose of keeping the glass RFID tag located at the selected implantation site has more to do with consistency and ease of use than potential health risks. Veterinarians need to be able to reliably scan the same area on every pet to determine if the animal has a microchip. If tags were able to migrate from their implantation site, vets may fail to successfully scan and identify a tagged pet. In the case of tagging livestock, you do not want to accidentally have a tag migrate into a piece of meat that ends up on the consumer dining table or in scrap pieces of carcass which may be rendered for a variety of food chain-related uses.

Like myself, the DIY tagger community has taken to using glass tags which are not designed for implantation, and as such do not utilize this coating. The lack of coating allows tags to be removed or replaced much more easily than if they had this coating, and after five years neither of my tags have migrated from their implant sites. This may be due to the fact that my tags rest in congruous elastic skin tissue rather than fibrous muscle tissue which is bundled into separate strands that an implant could move between.

6.4. Structural Compromise

The thought of a glass capsule being crushed into small sharp shards while it is still inside one's body does not produce feelings of excitement or enthusiasm. Concern over the structural resilience are warranted, since the cylindrical glass capsules encasing the RFID tag's electrical components (IC, antenna coil, etc.) have very thin walls and are easily crushed using common medical instruments like forceps.

The FDA initially considered the Veri Chip as a class II device which requires special control testing [32]. However this testing did not include any sort of structural integrity test. No crush/penetration tests were performed, and key factors such as lateral stress or compression limits. are unknown. Later, the FDA reclassified the Veri Chip [33], placing it in the type III group of devices which has even fewer controls. The health risks specifically identified in the K033440 reclassification include [34]; adverse tissue reaction, migration of implanted transponder, failure of inserter, failure of electronic scanner, electromagnetic interference, electrical hazards, magnetic resonance imaging incompatibility, and needle stick. No mention of glass casing fracture or structural compromise.

After five years using my own implants and talking to many DIY taggers who have followed suit, I have not heard of anyone having any issue with crushed or compromised tags. Still, the concern is valid, and the choice of implant size, location, orientation, proximity to bone and other inflexible tissues all play a role in avoiding structural compromise.

6.5. Removal and Replacement

At the time of this writing, I have not observed any accounts of DIY taggers getting their implants removed or replaced. However, the implantation of glass tags that do not make use of a polypropylene polymer based anti-migration coating should enable the tags to remain detached and separate from the body, making removal easier.

Rather than implanting tags deep into muscle tissue, which would require invasive surgery to locate and remove, DIY taggers tend to prefer shallow implantation just under the skin. This reduces both the complexity of locating and the size and nature of the incision required to remove the tag. It also means the body is less prone to inflammation and infection-related side effects.

6.6. Cancer Risk

What started off the recent cancer discussion surrounding animal identification RFID implants was a paper published about a French bulldog who received an RFID “pet microchip” implant in September of 2003 at age 9. In April of 2004 he was examined and found to have a “lump” at the implant site [30]:

“[o]n April 2004, Leon, a 9-year-old male French Bulldog, was examined by the referring veterinarian, based in Guelph, Ontario (Canada), for the sudden growth of a subcutaneous 3×3-cm mass located on the dorsal midline of the neck, just cranial to the shoulders. The dog was regularly vaccinated against the most common canine infectious diseases and rabies, and was micro chipped (Indexel, Merial, Lyon, France) in September 2003.”

This news spread quickly, and older studies were dug up revealing similar links in laboratory mice and soon the firestorm was in full swing. I started getting all kinds of concerned emails from DIY taggers, media interview requests, and more hate mail from concerned members of the public. After reading the studies however, it became clear to me that the risks were not as exaggerated as the media and RFID critics made them out to be.

For example, many articles citing the above-mentioned study claimed the French bulldog “had a giant tumor surrounding the implant” and that the dog had died “an untimely death” from that cancer. Upon simply reading the paper I found both those assertions were false [30];

“The microchip was found, not embedded within the tumor, but immediately adjacent to it, surrounded by a very thin fibrous wall (approximately 1 mm thick) and some fresh hemorrhage.”

Reading further I found [30];

“After surgery, the dog was not vaccinated or microchipped again. Up to now, the dog is well, and no recurrence has been observed.”

So basically the dog was doing fine two years later when the study was published in 2006, and the paper calls out various other possible causes such as postinjection fibrosarcoma (a well-known pathologic entity) characterized by inflammatory peritumoral infiltration, multinucleated giant cells, and myofibroblastic cells.

The plainly published facts did not seem to matter though. Both mainstream media and RFID critics alike jumped all over the academic paper and dug up other studies from which to pull completely out of context findings. However, other papers cited within that French bulldog study do point out implants which were embedded in the center of neoplasms. So what is going on here? I started looking into other studies after visiting sites like antichips.com [35] publishing statements like the following:

“[i]n almost all cases, the malignant tumors, typically sarcomas, arose at the site of the implants and grew to surround and fully encase the devices. These fast-growing, malignant tumors often led to the death of the afflicted animals. In many cases, the tumors metastasized or spread to other parts of the animals. The implants were unequivocally identified as the cause of the cancers.”

The bottom line for myself and other DIY taggers was simple: should we be concerned about this? For the most part, what I found after digging into many of these studies was that these laboratory mice were either genetically prone to cancerous growths or subjected to radiation and/or chemical carcinogens in an effort to intentionally stimulate cancerous growth. So now the question becomes, what would cause cancer to grow around an implant? There could only be two things; the glass used to encase the RFID tag or the anti-migration coating used to lock the implant in place in the flesh. In both instances more research is needed, however it is my personal opinion that the porous coating will likely be revealed as the leading factor in stimulating cancerous growth in the area immediately surrounding implantation sites in predisposed specimens.

6.7. Taking Personal Responsibility

While I believe everyone today needs to take a bit more personal responsibility when it comes to the decisions they make, for a DIY tagger this is especially true. A draft DIY tagger code is depicted in Table 2.

Table 2. DIY tagger code

Part B-Socio-Technical Issues

In Part B, Michael and Michael relate events about Graafstra, and Graafstra relates events about others. The whole Part is written in the third person voice. Where direct quotes are used, Graafstra's sentiments and interview responses are captured verbatim. In this part the main socio-technical issues facing RFID implantees is discussed, including security, privacy, data ownership (personal versus commercial), social issues (e.g. religious responses and socio-political concerns), law and policy. Due to space limitations the authors do not go into great detail in each of the socio-technical issues addressed, rather, this remains the aim of a future work-in-progress. Part B concludes by acknowledging the role of all the stakeholders in the feedback mechanism towards social innovation.

Section 7. RFID, Implantees and Security

RFID is a very broad term that encompasses a plethora of technologies that are all designed differently but do one thing; identify something via radio frequency (RF) communication. That includes everything from the World War II identification friend or foe (IFF) systems to implantable tags to RFID enabled credit cards. As recent as 2006, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was debating the use of RFID for humans. In reports [37] and [38], it is clear that while one DHS full committee found that deployment of RFID for human identification should be done with caution, the second report by a subcommittee ruled that the practice was inappropriate [39]. The recommendation by the DHS subcommittee read [38]:

“[t]here appear to be specific, narrowly defined situations in which RFID is appropriate for human identification. Miners or firefighters might be appropriately identified using RFID because speed of identification is at a premium in dangerous situations and the need to verify the connection between a card and bearer is low. But for other applications related to human beings, RFID appears to offer little benefit when compared to the consequences it brings for privacy and data integrity. Instead, it increases risks to personal privacy and security, with no commensurate benefit for performance or national security. Most difficult and troubling is the situation in which RFID is ostensibly used for tracking objects (medicine containers, for example), but can in fact be used for monitoring human behavior “For these reasons, we recommend that RFID be disfavored for identifying and tracking human beings. When DHS does choose to use RFID to identify and track individuals, we recommend the implementation of the specific security and privacy safeguards …”

Many RFID technologies are insecure by design, or employ weak or flawed encryption methods. However, that is not to say that an RFID system using an insecure RFID technology is itself insecure by default. Despite the early 2006 findings of the DHS reports, there are U.S. RFID-based schemes which are now in widespread use. Graafstra points to the “trusted traveler” RFID-enabled NEXUS card as an example [40]. The NEXUS card is a U.S. government issued travel card that has an ultra high frequency (UHF) RFID tag inside, which does not employ any encryption technology. Any Generation 2 (Gen 2) UHF reader can read the unique code stored in the tag. The RF technology used by the NEXUS system is insecure, but the NEXUS system that allows one to travel across various borders is not inherently insecure, so one's identity is theoretically not at risk. Graafstra elaborates: “[t]he Gen 2 ID stored in my card is a unique number, but that number in no way gives up any information about me to an attacker who may be able to read it-it is just a number. The systems that link that ID number to actual important information about me are secured in far superior ways than the systems that store your library card account, or in some states, even your dri ver license information.”

Like NEXUS travel cards, the VeriChip medical implant does not employ encryption in any way. Any passive 134 kHz reader capable of understanding the VeriChip data protocol can read the ID of any VeriChip implant. Even though these IDs are tied to medical records, the ID itself is useless to a random attacker because access to those records also requires both access to a medical network and a health professional's account password. Systems that employ encrypted RFID tags have, in the past, relied heavily on the crypto algorithms in the RFID tags themselves to secure the system in which RFID technology was integrated into.

Graafstra uses the example of ExxonMobil's pay-at-the-pump SpeedPass system and the many vehicle immobilizer systems that make use of the 134 kHz TI DST tag, which secures communication through a challenge/response mechanism. The problem with these systems Graafstra outlines is that because they do not possess any other security mechanisms outside of the RFID tag's encryption, the systems are vulnerable to fraud by cracking the encryption algorithm used by tags to generate proper responses to the challenges issued by commercial readers. Once the DST tag crypto had been cracked [41], ExxonMobil had to redesign their SpeedPass payment system to implement credit card style fraud detection to detect and prevent fraudulent transactions. Other tag chipsets that employ encryption mechanisms like MiFare and HIT AG S have also been compromised, leading systems designers to rethink security and start balancing RFID encryption with other security mechanisms.

Graafstra points to the fact that his left hand contains an EM4102 tag, which by design does not utilize any security measures. The tag ID is readable by any 125 kHz reader able to understand EM4102 tags and get close enough to read the tag. He comments, “[e]ven so, I use that tag to unlock my back door when I get home from work. Many would argue that my home is completely insecure because my implanted tag is not secure. I do not disagree, but I also do not believe that I am at any greater risk of home invasion as a result.”

7.1. Security Context

Quite often people think security is a pass/fail scenario. Either something is secure or it is not. In reality, a security policy is a collection of systems, methods, and procedures that protect an asset by removing enough value and/or applying enough deterrence that a potential attacker will not even bother or quit trying. To get to the heart of the matter, you have to start with the premise that nothing is truly secure. If there is enough desire, determination, and resources available to an attacker, they will eventually succeed.

The inherent lack of encryption in many RFID tags impacts DIY taggers building personal use applications differently than it does commercial enterprises like Veri Chip, ExxonMobil, and VISA/MasterCard with their public use applications. Graafstra argues that despite the fact that he uses an insecure RFID tag to unlock the back door of his house, if a random attacker were to get close enough to read the ID of the EM4102 tag implanted in his left hand, they would not have any way to derive his identity (e.g. name), his home location (e.g. where he lives), or his phone number. This is however discounting the simple fact that one can be covertly followed in a public space. Graafstra believes an attacker intent on entering his home would generally use more mundane approaches such as breaking a window, than going to the effort of a technical approach. Graafstra's observations are quite correct, for the time being, until more and more DIY taggers start to rig up their personal living spaces with readers.

7.2. Designing with Security in Mind

7.2.1 RFID Cards in the Corporation

Assuming the encryption algorithms used by “secure tags” today have been or will soon be cracked, system designers need to shift from exclusive reliance on tag encryption and incorporate other features to make their systems more secure. Starting with the RFID tag itself, several businesses integrate RFID access control tags with their employee name badges. These can be constructed with a simple push button membrane or switch that connects the RFID antenna to the tag IC. Graafstra recommends that given the user already has to handle their name badge in order to place it close enough to a reader to get a valid read, why not require a simultaneous press of a switch while doing so? For Graafstra, such a simple design change would eliminate almost every possibility for a non-consensual read by malicious users.

Access control systems can also be designed with more intelligence than they currently possess. Graafstra relates the following scenario with respect to physical access control to a corporation. Assume Dave of XYZ Corp has been the victim of a malicious card scan. The attacker intends to emulate Dave's card ID to gain access to the building by mixing in with the morning rush of people. Dave enters the building first, and then the attacker enters five minutes later. Dave goes to his desk by way of the elevator and a couple of other security doors where his badge is used. The attacker takes a different route to his target, using his emulated Dave badge. The system should be able to recognize the odd access pattern through validation and alert security, possibly offering up an employee photo along side a time stamped video of the various RFID access events. Security personnel could then quickly determine if there was an attempted security breach they needed to address. If so, they could lock down Dave's badge so it no longer functioned, and even set up real-time mobile alerts to tell roving security guards if and where the badge was trying to be used. In theory, Graafstra is correct, system designers for the greater part are not thinking foolproof security blueprints but the reality is that budgeting and security staff resourcing would possibly not allow for such sophisticated security interventions; detection is one thing, acting on an email or mobile alert is another.

7.2.2. RFID Implants and Diy Tagger Protection

Graafstra has spent a great deal of time thinking how DIY taggers could protect themselves from what he terms “casual” security attacks. He has documented his solution as follows. Using the read/write memory blocks that many types of tags have is a good way to increase both the risk and the amount of effort an attacker would have to exert in order to successfully execute an attack. For example, the HIT AG S 2048 tag in his right hand uses 40 bit encryption to protect the contents of its 255 byte read/write memory blocks. The 40 bit encryption will not stop a serious attacker but it will diminish the casual attacker's ability.

Graafstra elaborates in detail: to enhance the security of a system, the memory space can contain a pseudo-random rotating hash which is used in conjunction with the tag's read onl y unique serial number to confirm authorized entry. The hash is generated based on a secret key that only your system knows, coupled with an incrementing counter used to salt the hash. When the hash is read, the system uses much more powerful encryption algorithms to calculate and match the hash stored on the tag than the tag itself is capable of utilizing. The counter value is derived and checked against the system counter to ensure the encrypted hash is correct for the tag IDand to ensure the counter value is moving forward and not staying still or moving backward. Upon successful authentication, the counter is updated and a new hash is written to the memory blocks. If an attacker were able to break the 40 bit encryption to gain access to the memory contents, a successful attack is still orders of magnitude more difficult to pull off than plainly emulating an unencrypted tag. Also, a successful attack would provide a very small window of opportunity as any use of the original card would invalidate the cloned tag's counter/hash combination.

Section 8. RFID Implantees and Privacy

8.1. Misconceptions About RFID Technology

There are a lot of misconceptions in the general community about how various RFID technologies work, prompting unfounded fears of global positioning system (GPS) satellites tracking embedded tags and implants. This is not to say that in the future RFID tags will not be able to interface with a number of different mobile technologies but for now this kind of global tracking is unavailable. And this not because it is not technically feasible to do so, but rather because large-scale agreements have not yet been entered into between a variety of stakeholders.

Active RFID tags can transmit data very long distances, anywhere from a few feet to 10 miles or more, but they use battery power to do so and are bigger and bulkier than passive RFID tags. Inversely, passive tags like those used in retail inventory applications and glass encased implants are typically smaller. They do not have internal power sources, and can generally communicate with readers from only a few inches to a few feet away depending on chipset, size, and frequency used. Certain experiments have shown, under ideal conditions, that passive UHF tags can be read from several hundred feet, but those are special test cases not practical real-world scenarios. Even so, the prevalent fear amongst every day consumers is that, somehow, carrying an RFID tag of any kind will allow “them” (e.g. government agencies) to track your every move.

Today, people's activities are logged constantly. From every non-cash purchase you make to every RFID “fast pay” toll booth archway driven under to every phone call made, something somewhere is logging that activity. Graafstra points out the potential for data mining through a variety of sources, emphasizing that “[n]obody is upset about this type of information gathering as they are about RFID technology … [and that] the backlash from specific segments of the public seems to center on embedded tags, whether they are embedded in clothes, in driver license cards, or people's bodies.” For Graafstra, the stated concerns indicate people believe RFID is capable of more than it really is, and that those perceived capabilities culminate as fear of massive privacy invasion on an unprecedented scale.

8.2. Some Consumer Concerns Warranted

Although Graafstra does acknowledge that some consumer concerns with respect to RFID are valid, he believes the concern is misdirected at the technology itself rather than on human factor issues, e.g. consent. He emphasizes that unobtrusive reads amount to privacy problems, and that to some extent history has already proven that this is a valid concern. Clothing manufacturer Benetton, for example, was found to be embedding RFID tags into women's garments in an effort to quickly identify past customers as they walked into their storefronts [42]. Graafstra also singles out the idea of function creep, inferring that consent given for one use may be extended at a later date as the application grows. People who have to travel over toll roads and bridges may opt to use an RFID tag permanently affixed to their windscreen for automatic payment may find that the terms and conditions they originally signed up for have changed, and in some instances without warning. For example, some state governments collect data from RFID tollway tags to monitor traffic patterns on their roadways without notifying users. Furthermore, logs of which tags passed what checkpoint at what time are kept for undisclosed periods of time and log data could potentially be shared with an unknown number of requestors. Graafstra questions whether the next step will indeed be to issue speeding fines based on how fast people have traveled from checkpoint A to B.

8.3. RFID Tags: Personal Versus Commercial Use

Now let us take a hypothetical look at RFID privacy in a hostile environment, and the differences between personal use and commercial use contexts. When you sign up for a commercial service that utilizes RFID in some way, you surrender your personal information which is tied to that unique tag ID. Assuming the company does not share your tag ID or your information with any other person or company, your information is still associated with that tag ID and could be used to violate your privacy through nonconsensual reading of the tag. The problem gets worse if that company sells or shares that data with other companies or people.

In a personal use context, you never surrender your personal information to anyone, and your tag ID is in no way associated with you. The best any snoopy corporation or government could do would be to aggregate non-identifiable data together to determine patterns of anonymous tag IDs. Of course, there is always the concern that associations could be made through other means. For example, suppose a checkpoint was set up that could read a large cross-section of tags from RFID enabled credit cards, access cards, various tag types in UHF, high frequency (HF), and low frequency (LF) frequency ranges, etc. A properly read and decrypted RFID credit card will reveal the cardholder's name, and if other tag IDs always showed up in logs when “Dave's” unprotected RFID-enabled credit card did, then one could assume that all those RFID tags resided in Dave's wallet with his credit card. While this fact may be disconcerting, Dave can still take measures to protect himself, by choosing to shield his tags and cards [43], or even leave them at home. But what about implanted RFID tags? Leaving those at home is not possible and shielding them could be socially awkward (always explaining why you're wearing tin foil gloves), even though increasingly sentinel jackets are coming onto the market.

Implantable tags like VeriChip which are sold to the public for use within commercial systems do present different privacy challenges than the glass tags implanted by DIY taggers. A commercial system means uniformity when it comes to things like implant location, type of chip, data protocol, and frequency. Since the implant location is common to all users (e.g. in the case of the VeriChip it is the triceps muscle of the right arm), Graafstra believes that a simple reader can be set up at typical arm height in a doorway to casually capture tag IDs from passers-by. With enough people using a common system and enough readers placed in enough doorways, unique traffic profiles could be created for each tag ID much more easily.

Section 9. RFID Implantees and Society

9.1. PET and Animal Identification Systems

Whether people like to admit to it or not, society today is full of RFID tag and transponder technologies embedded in buildings, in vehicles, in packages, in clothing, in animals, and in people's wallets. This diffusion will continue to grow annually with predictions that 26.1 billion units will be sold in 2011 alone [44]. Passive RFID tags designed to be implanted into animals have been around since the early 1980s. After being widely tested by several companies in the early 1990s (such as Destron's LifeChip [45]), the number of pets with implanted RFID tags has skyrocketed as local councils and state governments move to make the chipping of domesticated animals compulsory [46]. To date this practice, above all else, has done more to raise public awareness of the positive applications of implantables than any other use of implantable RFID tags.

Today RFID tags, both passive and active, are used to keep tabs on everything from pets to livestock to wild animals on land, in the air, and in the sea. Graafstra notes, that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service uses “microchipping” in its research of wild bison, black-footed ferrets, grizzly bears, elk, white-tailed deer, giant land tortoises and armadillos. New developments in sensors, RF, and power harvesting technologies are also leading the way to “implantable” RF enabled sensors embedded into trees (e.g. orchards). These “tree tags” relay information about the health of the tree, the surrounding forest environment, and raise an alarm in the event of a forest fire [47].

9.2. Is it Hip to Get the Chip?

Since Michael and Michael began their research into non-medical ICT implantables in the mid-1990s, they were preoccupied by the question of diffusion, and predominantly the notion of who influenced whom within the context of an actor network. For example, who was the first DIY tagger implantee? What inspired them to get an implant? How did they come to know of other implantees? When Graafstra received his first implant, he knew he was not the first. Professor Kevin Warwick had long since completed his Cyborg 1.0 project, and VeriChip had received FDA approval and was already implanting customers. Graafstra believes what he embarked on in early 2005 created such a media interest because he got the implant on his own accord, and he self-reported it all using photographs and video via the web. He also was comprehensive in his documentation of what he planned to do with his implant, and quickly demonstrated its functionality. Finally, he also believes implanting a RFID device in the hand, and not in the upper arm, sparked more intrigue and inquiry.

Since that time Veri Chip (now PositivelD [48]) have been marketing their products, and to date allegedly have between 1000 and 2000 people registered in their medical implant database, although some estimates are much lower and some much higher. The size of the DIY community is, by its very nature, unknown. Yet shortly after news of Graafstra's implant became public, he was contacted by lots of members from the general community who wanted to know how to obtain an implant themselves. Graafstra is frank, when he states: “today, anyone can buy glass encased RFID tags and watch self-implantation procedures online, and then go to their local piercing shop to get it done”. One is left pondering, however, whether DIYers are engaged in the act of blueprint copying or idea diffusion, and the repercussions that this might have on how RFID implants are utilized in the future. Jared Diamond describes blueprint copying as the act of copying or modifying an available detailed blueprint. At the opposite end of the spectrum lies idea diffusion, which is when one receives little more than the basic idea and has to reinvent the fine details [49].

Graafstra estimates there could be roughly 200 or 300 DIY taggers around the world who have opted to get a non-commercial RFID implant. Graafstra is reflective, that while he does not know the exact number of DIYers, he does know (or at least understands) the inner motivations of some DIYers to get an implant is less than technical. He said:

“I've been contacted by 16 year old kids who have had to wait until they are 18 to get this done due to - what I think are - valid parental concerns. On my RFID forum, I have repeatedly suggested that it is not worth taking even a minor health risk to get this done if you do not really know why you want it and what your goals are once you have it. Even so, when I asked a couple of these kids why they wanted to get an implant and what they were going to do with it, in both cases their responses were something along the lines of “because it's cool” and “I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it”. I have also been contacted by body-madders who, after getting their fifteenth cosmetic subcutaneous silicone implant, wanted something different … something that was actually functional in some way, even if they did not have any plans to actually use it.”

However most DIY taggers tend to view their implant as a utilitarian tool to be used in daily life with projects they have built themselves. In this loose-knit community [50] of practical DIY taggers, one could argue it is actually “hip to get the chip,” even though the best place for it is unanimously the hand!

9.3. RFID Implants for Families: Peace of Mind?

When considering the applications that Applied Digital Solutions were marketing in 2003, and those that were subsequently marketed by the VeriChip Corporation, Graafstra circumspectly calls the “brochureware” confusing from a marketing perspective at least. For Graafstra, any sort of communication that misleads the public about pinpoint location positioning via the RFID chip is widely fantastical and utterly disappointing. He does not understand, how on the basis of a commercial vision, the Mexican Attorney General allowed himself and some of his staff to be Veri Chipped with an “anti-kidnapping chip”. Parents, like that of Jeffrey and Leslie Jacobs were also lead to believe, probably through mainstream public misconceptions about the function of RFID, that getting a Veri Chip implant would provide their whole family with security and “piece of mind” [51].

The fact is, no RFID implant can provide that kind of security and “traceability” that certain members of society are looking for or are afraid of. The best an RFID implant can do today, is identify the person sitting two inches away from the scanner. That may help identify a corpse, but it will not help find missing persons. This is not to say that in the not-to-distant future, technological convergence might enable very sophisticated applications to be built. The idea of implanting prisoners, persons on parole or persons on extended supervision orders (ESOs), or military service-people with digital implantable dog tags has been considered but has yet to take place. Again, Graafstra points to public polls where consumers believe that implanting prisoners or parolees would make society “safer” because it would make implantees easier to track down and keep in confined zones if required, but he is adamant that these kinds of solutions are not yet possible using implanted RFID tags. The permanency of FDA approved implantables is especially disconcerting as they possibly do not give one-time offenders, or once military service personnel, an opportunity to rehabilitate or move onto other professions [52]. For Graafstra this is a violation of service terms, since imposed subcutaneous FDA approved commercial implants are long lasting physical remnant of requirements that have long since expired, and no longer valid.

9.4. RFID Implants for Employees and the Law

To date, no employer has required an employee or potential employee to obtain an RFID implant in order to become or remain employed. Critics jumped on inaccurate media reports that CityWatcher.com, a now defunct municipal surveillance company, had required employees to get implants to access sensitive datacenters. The fact is three employees did receive VeriChip implants and the company paid for their procedures [53]. However, five employees opted to simply carry around an access card to access those same areas. Implantation was optional, not compulsory. There was a similar optional implantation of employees at the Baja Beach Club in Barcelona, Spain but this was not really publicized.

As a preemptive measure several states in the U.S.A passed laws that banned enforced implantation by employers [54]. For Graafstra the problem has more to do with laws and regulations which target a technology than the very ‘act’ of surveillance. Graafstra notes the law passed in California (Senate Bill 362) that banned employers from mandating that employees or potential employees must get an identifying implant in order to perform their work [55]. The law is written with a heavy slant toward a “radio frequency device”, but an argument could be made that this law also covers biometric technologies and other location based mobile technologies. Intentional or not, the definitions section states;

“Identification device” means any item, application, or product that is passively or actively capable of transmitting personal information, including, but not limited to, devices using radio frequency technology.

“Subcutaneous” means existing, performed, or introduced under or on the skin.

For Graafstra such laws do not do anything for employee workplace rights as a plethora of other technologies exist to determine the whereabouts of workers within campus-based facilities like manufacturing plants. For Graafstra, it has less to do with implantables, and more to do with employee privacy.

9.5. Is Getting an RFID Implant Evil?

Many people believe that RFID implants will harm society and/or humanity in some way. The two most vocal groups are people expressing their religious views, and people expressing their socio-political fears [56]‥

9.5.1. Religious Concerns-“Mark of the Beast”

The interpretation of the Book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament, by some Christians has caused Graafstra to be the target of backlash by some members of the believing community. Graafstra points to the following verses that RFID critics with a religious orientation invariably point to (Revelation 13: 16–18):

Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let him who has understanding reckon the number of the beast, for it is a human number, its number is six hundred and sixty-six.

From the correspondence that Graafstra has received, he has deduced that some Christians believe that “the devil” will require all of humanity to receive a mark of some kind in order to be able to participate in day-to-day societal transactions. And that furthermore, wise people will recognize that mark and attempt to refuse it. Those who are most vocal about such beliefs have gone so far as to insult and threaten Graafstra, and other DIY taggers about their involvement in ICT implants. Graafstra has spent some time reviewing the passages himself countering:

“[s]ince so many people seem to take the Bible so very literally, in my opinion there are a few things they are either ignoring or do not realize. In verse 16, it says “he causeth all” which means everyone will receive “the mark” regardless of whether they want it or not. In verse 17 it says “no man might buy or sell [without the mark]”, meaning absolutely nobody will be able to do this, even if you are living in an igloo on the North Pole trying to do it illegally. In verse 18 it says nothing about wise people refusing the mark or even being able to, it only discusses how to recognize it.”

There are, however, a number of places in Revelation (16:2, 19:20, 20:10) where it seems evident enough that people will indeed have to make a choice, viz., “the mark”. This was certainly the interpretation of all the early church exegetes who dealt with the prophecy [57]. For Graafstra, however, the mark and the beast are potent warnings about willing subscription to oppressive systems, and how using the tools of those systems will only strengthen such systems. It is very important to distinguish between oppressive systems that use technologies to subjugate a people, and technologies that liberate them, or those being used in a private, personal context.

9.5.2. Socio-Political Fears

Some people believe that RFID implants may one day be mandated on the general populace, instituted by totalitarian governments and other authoritarian regimes [58]. Such persons, firmly believe that RFID technology, particularly implant technology, will in some way enslave humanity and cause a major digital divide. These groups generally point to the involvement of large-scale corporations in the conception, development and implementation of RFID implant technology, and to some extent generate conspiracy theory-like scenarios about the future.

Graafstra also notes that he has been threatened both directly and indirectly by some people harboring sociopolitical fears. He elaborates:

“I have been accused of aiding the government and private corporations in their efforts to deploy RFID implants on a wide scale. I very strongly feel it is a priority to attempt to engage these accusers in civil discussion and attempt, however futile, to impart a bit of knowledge so they might understand how these implants function and ultimately the difference between and separation of DIY taggers from commercial solutions by corporations like VeriChip.”

Simply put, some advocacy groups are not helping the debate and whatever valuable insights they might have is lost in a host of “background noise”. The practice of

‘attracting’ hate mail is common among implantees (both in academia and DIYers), and as Graafstra emphasizes, it often does not encourage a healthy exchange of ideas, although it does alert developers to the social realities that may be stifling adoption and potential ethical liabilities development make need to address.

Section 10. RFID Versus Other Technologies

In Graafstra's opinion it is not so much that consumers should be wary of what RFID can do, but of the widespread diffusion of powerful biometrics and pinpoint positioning technologies. Despite that biometric identification is used extensively all over the world to identify and log all kinds of things, Graafstra notes that it does not receive the same amount of attention that RFID does from advocacy groups. Graafstra sums it up very well when he reflects:

“I think the reason for this is that RFID requires a tangible object carried by or implanted in the object to be identified. Biometric identification does not require this because the identifier is your own body. As biometric monitoring devices get more and more unobtrusive and fade further into the urban landscape, I fear lack of motivation will continue to get worse until a series of very serious civil rights violations occur, but by then we might have a social environment so riddled with circumstances where privacy and basic rights have been traded away for the illusion of security that the general public may actually be afraid to turn off and live without these systems.”

Today's biometric technology can identify you by your full body [59], face, voice, fingerprints, chemical scent, gait mechanics, emotional expressions, your DNA, and even your own shadow [60]. Video cameras are very cheap and easy to deploy, and developments in video processing enable face recognition systems to accurately identify entire crowds of people much faster and more accurately than ever before. If your face is not visible, gait analysis systems can still tell it is “you”, based on the way you walk or your body language. The U.S. military, among others, have been working with satellite imaging to successfully identify key targets based on the shadow they cast on the ground [61].

But beyond biometrics, there is now a plethora of positioning technologies entering the market at different levels of precision [62], [63]. Even the mobile phone (whether 3G-enabled or not) has become a potential privacy-invasive tool. In the U.S., President Barrack Obama recently suggested that U.S. citizens have “no expectation of privacy” with respect to their mobile phones, even when not making a call [64]. Graafstra is not alone in his belief that the idea that anyone from local police to government agencies should be allowed to request-without a warrant-your phone's location at any time (even if it is sitting idle in your home) “is a very scary step that moves the U.S. further toward a surveillance state”. The question as Graafstra has rightly put it is why are these issues not receiving the same attention as RFID tags and implantables? There is an obvious mismatch between perceived encroachments in privacy and actual encroachments in privacy. Advocacy groups might be lobbying for “no RFID implants” but what is here “now” is far worse.

10.1. Opting Out of Commercial ID Systems

If one wishes to opt out of an RFID-based system, users can issue requests to any third parties they enrolled with to have their account information destroyed. While this process and its full compliance is entirely in the hands of those third parties, destruction of the RFID tag is within the control of the users themselves. Tags can be returned to vendors, left at home, thrown out, physically destroyed, or in the case of implants physically removed from the body. However, removal of some RFID implants is more difficult than others. According to the company's product documentation, the FDA approved VeriChip is designed for permanent human implantation. Its Bio-Bond® anti-migration coating and the implantation procedure which seats the tag very deep into muscle tissue create a painful and expensive removal experience. The lack of anti-migration coating on the glass tags used by DIY taggers and their typically shallow implant locations allow easy removal that, in an emergency, could even be done with a sharp knife by the taggers themselves. With biometric systems however, the process of opting out is entirely handled by the third parties whose systems you have been enrolled in. Identifying all of these parties can be impossible if you have passively been enrolled in one or more systems without your knowledge. Furthermore, changing or destroying your biological identifiers can be extremely difficult, expensive, painful, or just plain impossible with today's technology.

Section 11. Conclusion

There is some truth in the belief that technology can be used for well intentioned purposes and not-so-well intentioned purposes alike; see for example the differences between two opposing schools of thought-technological determinism and the social shaping of technology. Graafstra believes that most, if not all technologies are neutral: “[i]t is the people who implement and use a particular technology that determine its effect on humanity.” In that regard, Graafstra is one of the first to acknowledge why some people might have a fear of the potential for wide-scale use of RFID implants, especially when claims are made by persons with limited knowledge of what the technology is capable of, or in other circumstances persons who are completely ignorant of technological capabilities.

In reality, people who rise up so fervently to speak out against RFID do provide valuable feedback to the social innovation process. Graafstra knows too well that there will always be people who can and will build and/or use technology in a way that may be or become oppressive to end-users. The role of the critic is to help in the provision of a balanced view and to ask the very questions that may have been ignored during the development process. Perhaps, in the end, it is even quite irrelevant that some of these opponents understand the technology's true capabilities or limitations. The challenge rather to technologists is to usefully harness the criticism, the feedback, in order to build into their products and solutions design safeguards that mean that identified “potential” threats or harms are minimized or eradicated. Religious advocates against RFID, or those that have socio-political fears about the potential uses of RFID, should attempt to enter into intelligent dialogue rather than burn energy in campaigning against global computer giants or writing disrespectful messages to individual persons who are said to be aiding in the fulfillment of prophecy. The same can be said for law and policymakers, who must be open to discussion and who must arrive at intelligent legislation and industry regulation that targets behavior and the misconduct a technology might enable, not the technology itself. For example, some anti-chipping laws in the U.S. only refer to “injectable” RFID implants but we already have swallowable sensor technologies being patented, and what of the future of nanotechnology for healthcare? Policy that singles out technology as the problem, only limits the scope and effectiveness of the policy per se, while not addressing the real issues lurking beneath the surface.

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Keywords

Radiofrequency identification, Eyes, RFID tags, Transponders, Implants, Radio frequency, Animals,Supply chains, Mobile handsets, Health and safety, social sciences, radiofrequency identification, chip implant, sociotechnical issues, humancentric RFID implantee subculture, Amal Graafstra,radiofrequency identification tags

Citation: Amal Graafstra, Katina Michael, M.G. Michael, 2010, "Social-technical issues facing the humancentric RFID implantee sub-culture through the eyes of Amal Graafstra", International Symposium on Technology and Society, 7-10 June, 2010, pp. 498 - 516 , Wollongong, Australia.

Toward a State of Überveillance

Introduction

Überveillance is an emerging concept, and neither its application nor its power have yet fully arrived [38]. For some time, Roger Clarke's [12, p. 498] 1988 dataveillance concept has been prevalent: the “systematic use of personal data systems in the investigation or monitoring of the actions of one or more persons.”

Almost twenty years on, technology has developed so much and the national security context has altered so greatly [52], that there is a pressing need to formulate a new term to convey both the present reality, and the Realpolitik (policy primarily based on power) of our times. However, if it had not been for dataveillance, überveillance could not be. It must be emphasized that dataveillance will always exist - it will provide the scorecard for the engine being used to fulfill überveillance.

Dataveillance to Überveillance

Überveillance takes that which was static or discrete in the dataveillance world, and makes it constant and embedded. Consider überveillance not only automatic and having to do with identification, but also about real-time location tracking and condition monitoring. That is, überveillance connotes the ability to automatically locate and identify - in essence the ability to perform automatic location identification (ALI). Überveillance has to do with the fundamental who (ID), where (location), and when (time) questions in an attempt to derive why (motivation), what (result), and even how (method/plan/thought). Überveillance can be a predictive mechanism for a person's expected behavior, traits, likes, or dislikes; or it can be based on historical fact; or it can be something in between. The inherent problem with überveillance is that facts do not always add up to truth (i.e., as in the case of an exclusive disjunction T + T = F), and predictions based on überveillance are not always correct.

Überveillance is more than closed circuit television feeds, or cross-agency databases linked to national identity cards, or biometrics and ePassports used for international travel. Überveillance is the sum total of all these types of surveillance and the deliberate integration of an individual's personal data for the continuous tracking and monitoring of identity and location in real time. In its ultimate form, überveillance has to do with more than automatic identification technologies that we carry with us. It has to do with under-the-skin technology that is embedded in the body, such as microchip implants; it is that which cuts into the flesh - a charagma (mark) [61]. Think of it as Big Brother on the inside looking out. This charagma is virtually meaningless without the hybrid network architecture that supports its functionality: making the person a walking online node i.e., beyond luggable netbooks, smart phones, and contactless cards. We are referring here to the lowest common denominator, the smallest unit of tracking - presently a tiny chip inside the body of a human being, which could one day work similarly to the black box.

Implants cannot be left behind, cannot be lost, and supposedly cannot be tampered with; they are always on, can link to objects, and make the person seemingly otherworldly. This act of “chipification” is best illustrated by the ever-increasing uses of implant devices for medical prosthesis and for diagnostics [54]. Humancentric implants are giving rise to the Electrophorus [36, p. 313], the bearer of electric technology; an individual entity very different from the sci-fi notion of Cyborg as portrayed in such popular television series as the Six Million Dollar Man (1974–1978). In its current state, the Electrophorus relies on a device being triggered wirelessly when it enters an electromagnetic field; these properties now mean that systems can interact with people within a spatial dimension, unobtrusively [62]. And it is surely not simple coincidence that alongside überveillance we are witnessing the philosophical reawakening (throughout most of the fundamental streams running through our culture) of Nietzsche's Übermensch - the overcoming of the “all-too-human” [25].

Legal and Ethical Issues

In 2005 the European Group on Ethics (EGE) in Science and New Technologies, established by the European Commission (EC), submitted an Opinion on ICT implants in the human body [45]. The thirty-four page document outlines legal and ethical issues having to do with ICT implants, and is based on the European Union Treaty (Article 6) which has to do with the “fundamental rights” of the individual. Fundamental rights have to do with human dignity, the right to the integrity of the person, and the protection of personal data. From the legal perspective the following was ascertained [45, pp. 20–21]:

  • the existence of a recognised serious but uncertain risk, currently applying to the simplest types of ICT implants in the human body, requires application of the precautionary principle. In particular, one should distinguish between active and passive implants, reversible and irreversible implants, and between offline and online implants;
  • the purpose specification principle mandates at least a distinction between medical and non-medical applications. However, medical applications should also be evaluated stringently, partly to prevent them from being invoked as a means to legitimize other types of application;
  • the data minimization principle rules out the lawfulness of ICT implants that are only aimed at identifying patients, if they can be replaced by less invasive and equally secure tools;
  • the proportionality principle rules out the lawfulness of implants such as those that are used, for instance, exclusively to facilitate entrance to public premises;
  • the principle of integrity and inviolability of the body rules out that the data subject's consent is sufficient to allow all kinds of implant to be deployed; and
  • the dignity principle prohibits transformation of the body into an object that can be manipulated and controlled remotely - into a mere source of information.

ICT implants for non-medical purposes violate fundamental legal principles. ICT implants also have numerous ethical issues, including the requirement for: non-instrumentalization, privacy, non-discrimination, informed consent, equity, and the precautionary principle (see also [8], [27], [29]). It should be stated, however, that the EGE, while not recommending ICT implants for non-medical applications because they are fundamentally fraught with legal and ethical issues, did state the following [45, p. 32]:

ICT implants for surveillance in particular threaten human dignity. They could be used by state authorities, individuals and groups to increase their power over others. The implants could be used to locate people (and also to retrieve other kinds of information about them). This might be justified for security reasons (early release for prisoners) or for safety reasons (location of vulnerable children).

However, the EGE insists that such surveillance applications of ICT implants may only be permitted if the legislator considers that there is an urgent and justified necessity in a democratic society (Article 8 of the Human Rights Convention) and there are no less intrusive methods. Nevertheless the EGE does not favor such uses and considers that surveillance applications, under all circumstances, must be specified in legislation. Surveillance procedures in individual cases should be approved and monitored by an independent court.

The same general principles should apply to the use of ICT implants for military purposes. Although this Opinion was certainly useful, we have growing concerns about the development of the information society, the lack of public debate and awareness regarding this emerging technology, and the pressing need for regulation that has not occurred commensurate to developments in this domain.

Herein rests the problem of human rights and striking a “balance” between freedom, security, and justice. First, we contend that it is a fallacy to speak of a balance. In the microchip implant scenario, there will never be a balance, so long as someone else has the potential to control the implant device or the stored data about us that is linked to the device. Second, we are living in a period where chip implants for the purposes of segregation are being discussed seriously by health officials and politicians. We are speaking here of the identification of groups of people in the name of “health management” or “national security.” We will almost certainly witness new, and more fixed forms, of “electronic apartheid.”

Consider the very real case where the “Papua Legislative Council was deliberating a regulation that would see microchips implanted in people living with HIV/AIDS so authorities could monitor their actions” [50]. Similar discussions on “registration” were held regarding asylum seekers and illegal immigrants in the European Union [18]. RFID implants or the “tagging” of populations in Asia (e.g., Singapore) were also considered “the next step” in the containment and eradication of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003 [43]. Apart from disease outbreaks, RFID has also been discussed as a response and recovery device for emergency services personnel dispatched to terrorist disasters [6], and for the identification of victims of natural disasters, such as in the case of the Boxing Day Tsunami [10]. The question remains whether there is a truly legitimate use function of chip implants for the purposes of emergency management as opposed to other applications. Definition plays a critical role in this instance. A similar debate has ensued in the use of the Schengen Information System II in the European Union where differing states have recorded alerts on individuals based on their understanding of a security risk [17].

In June of 2006, legislative analyst Anthony Gad, reported in brief 06-13 for the Legislative Reference Bureau [16], that the:

2005 Wisconsin Act 482, passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Jim Doyle on May 30, 2006, prohibits the required implanting of microchips in humans. It is the first law of its kind in the nation reflecting a proactive attempt to prevent potential abuses of this emergent technology.

A number of states in the United States have passed similar laws [63], despite the fact that at the national level, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration [15] has allowed radio frequency identification implants for medical use in humans. The Wisconsin Act [59] states:

The people of the state of Wisconsin, represented in senate and assembly, do enact as follows: SECTION 1. 146.25 of the statutes is created to read: 146.25 Required implanting of microchip prohibited. (1) No person may require an individual to undergo the implanting of a microchip. (2) Any person who violates sub. (1) may be required to forfeit not more than $10,000. Each day of continued violation constitutes a separate offense.

North Dakota followed Wisconsin's example. Wisconsin Governor Hoeven signed a two sentence bill into state law on April 4, 2007. The bill was criticized by some who said that while it protected citizens from being “injected” with an implant, it did not prevent someone from making them swallow it [51]. And indeed, there are now a number of swallowable capsule technologies for a variety of purposes that have been patented in the U.S. and worldwide. As with a number of other states, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed bill SB 362 proposed by state Senator Joe Simitian barring “employers and others from forcing people to have a radio frequency identification (RFID) device implanted under their skin” [28], [60]. According to the Californian Office of Privacy Protection [9] this bill

… would prohibit a person from requiring any other individual to undergo the subcutaneous implanting of an identification device. It would allow an aggrieved party to bring an action against a violator for injunctive relief or for the assessment of civil penalties to be determined by the court.

The bill, which went into effect January 1, 2008, did not receive support from the technology industry on the contention that it was “unnecessary.”

Interestingly, however, it is in the United States that most chip implant applications have occurred, despite the calls for caution. The first human-implantable passive RFID microchip (the VeriChipTM) was approved for medical use in October of 2004 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Nine hundred hospitals across the United States have registered the VeriChip's VeriMed system, and now the corporation's focus has moved to “patient enrollment” including people with diabetes, Alzheimer's, and dementia [14]. The VeriMedTM Patient Identification System is used for “rapidly and accurately identifying people who arrive in an emergency room and are unable to communicate” [56].

In February of 2006 [55], CityWatcher.com reported two of its employees had “glass encapsulated microchips with miniature antennas embedded in their forearms … merely a way of restricting access to vaults that held sensitive data and images for police departments, a layer of security beyond key cards and clearance codes.” Implants may soon be applied to the corrective services sector [44]. In 2002, 27 of 50 American states were using some form of satellite surveillance to monitor parolees. Similar schemes have been used in Sweden since 1994. In the majority of cases, parolees wear wireless wrist or ankle bracelets and carry small boxes containing the vital tracking and positioning technology. The positioning transmitter emits a constant signal that is monitored at a central location [33]. Despite continued claims by researchers that RFID is only used for identification purposes, Health Data Management disclosed that VeriChip (the primary commercial RFID implant patient ID provider) had enhanced its patient wander application by adding the ability to follow the “real-time location of patients, the ability to define containment areas for different classes of patients, and one-touch alerting. The system now also features the ability to track equipment in addition to patients” [19]. A number of these issues have moved the American Medical Association to produce an ethics code for RFID chip implants [4], [41], [47].

Outside the U.S., we find several applications for human-centric RFID. VeriChip's Scott Silverman stated in 2004 that 7000 chip implants had been given to distributors [57]. Today the number of VeriChip implantees worldwide is estimated to be at about 2000. So where did all these chips go? As far back as 2004, a nightclub in Barcelona, Spain [11] and Rotterdam, The Netherlands, known as the Baja Beach Club was offering “its VIP clients the opportunity to have a syringeinjected microchip implanted in their upper arms that not only [gave] them special access to VIP lounges, but also [acted] as a debit account from which they [could] pay for drinks” [39]. Microchips have also been implanted in a number of Mexican officials in the law enforcement sector [57]. “Mexico's top federal prosecutors and investigators began receiving chip implants in their arms … in order to get access to restricted areas inside the attorney general's headquarters.” In this instance, the implant acted as an access control security device despite the documented evidence that RFID is not a secure technology (see Gartner Research report [42]).

Despite the obvious issues related to security, there are a few unsolicited studies that forecast that VeriChip (now under the new corporate name Positive ID) will sell between 1 million and 1.4 million chips by 2020 [64, p. 21]. While these forecasts may seem over inflated to some researchers, one need only consider the very real possibility that some Americans may opt-in to adopting a Class II device that is implantable, life-supporting, or life-sustaining for more affordable and better quality health care (see section C of the Health Care bill titled: National Medical Device Registry [65, pp. 1001–1012]. There is also the real possibility that future pandemic outbreaks even more threatening than the H1N1 influenza, may require all citizens to become implanted for early detection depending on their travel patterns [66].

In the United Kingdom, The Guardian [58], reported that 11-year old Danielle Duval had an active chip (i.e., containing a rechargeable battery) implanted in her. Her mother believes that it is no different from tracking a stolen car, albeit for more important application. Mrs. Duvall is considering implanting her younger daughter age 7 as well but will wait until the child is a bit older, “so that she fully understands what's happening.” In Tokyo the Kyowa Corporation in 2004 manufactured a schoolbag with a GPS device fitted into it, to meet parental concerns about crime, and in 2005 Yokohama City children were involved in a four month RFID bracelet trial using the I-Safety system [53]. In 2007, Trutex, a company in Lancashire England, was seriously considering fitting the school uniforms they manufacture with RFID [31]. What might be next? Will concerned parents force microchip implants on minors?

Recently, decade-old experimental studies on microchip implants in rats have come to light tying the device to tumors [29]. The American Veterinary Medical Association [3] was so concerned that they released the following statement:

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is very concerned about recent reports and studies that have linked microchip identification implants, commonly used in dogs and cats, to cancer in dogs and laboratory animals…. In addition, removal of the chip is a more invasive procedure and not without potential complications. It's clear that there is a need for more scientific research into this technology. [emphasis added]

We see here evidence pointing to the notion of “no return” - an admittance that removal of the chip is not easy, and not without complications.

The Norplant System was a levonorgestrel contraceptive insert that over 1 million women in the United States, and over 3.6 million women worldwide had been implanted with through 1996 [2]. The implants were inserted just under the skin of the upper arm in a surgical procedure under local anesthesia and could be removed in a similar fashion. As of 1997, there were 2700 Norplant suits pending in the state and federal courts across the United States alone. Most of the claims had to do with “pain or damage associated with insertion or removal of the implants … [p]laintiffs have contended that they were not adequately warned, however, concerning the degree or severity of these events” [2]. Thus, concerns for the potential for widespread health implications caused by humancentric implants have also been around for some time. In 2003, Covacio provided evidence why implants may impact humans adversely, categorizing these into thermal (i.e., whole/partial rise in body heating), stimulation (i.e., excitation of nerves and muscles), and other effects, most of which are currently unknown [13].

Role of Emerging Technologies

Wireless networks are now commonplace. What is not yet common are formal service level agreements to hand-off transactions between different types of networks. These architectures and protocols are being developed, and it is only a matter of time before existing technologies have the capability to track individuals between indoor and outdoor locations seamlessly, or a new technology is created to do what present-day networks cannot [26]. For instance, a wristwatch device with GPS capabilities to be worn under the skin translucently is one idea that was proposed in 1998. Hengartner and Steenkiste [23] forewarn that “[l]ocation is a sensitive piece of information” and that “releasing it to random entities might pose security and privacy risks.”

There is nowhere to hide in this digital society, and nothing remains private (in due course, perhaps, not even our thoughts). Nanotechnology, the engineering of functional systems at the molecular level, is also set to change the way we perceive surveillance - microscopic bugs (some 50 000 times smaller than the width of the human hair) will be more parasitic than even the most advanced silicon-based auto-ID technologies. In the future we may be wearing hundreds of microscopic implants, each relating to an exomuscle or an exoskeleton, and which have the power to interact with literally millions of objects in the “outside world.” The question is not whether state governments will invest in this technology: they are already making these investments [40]. There is a question whether the next generation will view this technology as super “cool” and convenient and opt-in without comprehending the consequences of their compliance.

The social implications of these über-intrusive technologies will obey few limits and no political borders. They will affect our day-to-day existence and our family and community relations. They will give rise to mental health problems, even more complex forms of paranoia and obsessive compulsive disorder. Many scholars now agree that with the support of modern neuroscience, “the intimate relation between bodily and psychic functions is basic to our personal identity” [45, p. 3]. Religious observances will be affected; for example, in the practice of confession and a particular understanding of absolution from “sin” - people might confess as much as they might want, but the records on the database, the slate, will not be wiped clean. The list of social implications is limited only by our imaginations. The peeping Tom that we carry on the inside will have manifest consequences for that which philosophers and theologians normally term self-consciousness.

Paradoxical Levels of Überveillance

In all of these factors rests the multiple paradoxical levels of überveillance. In the first instance, it will be one of the great blunders of the new political order to think that chip implants (or indeed nanodevices) will provide the last inch of detail required to know where a person is, what they are doing, and what they are thinking. Authentic ambient context will always be lacking, and this could further aggravate potential “puppeteers” of any comprehensive surveillance system. Marcus Wigan captures this critical facet of context when he speaks of “asymmetric information held by third parties.” Second, chip implants will not necessarily make a person smarter or more aware (unless someone can afford chip implants that have that effect), but on the contrary and under the “right” circumstances may make us increasingly unaware and mute. Third, chip implants are not the panacea they are made out to be - they can fail, they can be stolen, they are not tamper-proof, and they may cause harmful effects to the body. They are a foreign object and their primary function is to relate to the outside world not to the body itself (as in the case of pacemakers and cochlear implants). Fourth, chip implants at present do not give a person greater control over her space, but allow for others to control and to decrease the individual's autonomy and as a result decrease interpersonal trust at both societal and state levels. Trust is inexorably linked to both metaphysical and moral freedom. Therefore the naive position routinely heard in the public domain that if you have “nothing to hide, why worry?” misses the point entirely. Fifth, chip implants will create a presently unimaginable digital divide - we are not referring to computer access here, or Internet access, but access to another mode of existence. The “haves” (implantees) and the “have-nots” (non-implantees) will not be on speaking terms; perhaps this suggests a fresh interpretation to the biblical tower of Babel (Gen. 11:9).

In the scenario, where a universal ID is instituted, unless the implant is removed within its prescribed time, the body will adopt the foreign object and tie it to tissue. At this moment, there will be no exit strategy and no contingency plan; it will be a life sentence to upgrades, virus protection mechanisms, and inescapable intrusion. Imagine a working situation where your computer - the one that stores all your personal data - has been hit by a worm, and becomes increasingly inoperable and subject to overflow errors and connectivity problems. Now imagine the same thing happening with an embedded implant. There would be little choice other than to upgrade or to opt out of the networked world altogether.

A decisive step towards überveillance will be a unique and “non-refundable” identification number (ID). The universal drive to provide us all with cradle-to-grave unique lifetime identifiers (ULIs), which will replace our names, is gaining increasing momentum, especially after September 11. Philosophers have have argued that names are the signification of identity and origin; our names possess both sense and reference [24, p. 602f]. Two of the twentieth century's greatest political consciences (one who survived the Stalinist purges and the other the holocaust), Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Primo Levi, have warned us of the connection between murderous regimes and the numbering of individuals. It is far easier to extinguish an individual if you are rubbing out a number rather than a life history.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn recounts in The Gulag Archipelago (1918–56), (2007, p. 346f):

[Corrective Labor Camps] quite blatantly borrowed from the Nazis a practice which had proved valuable to them - the substitution of a number for the prisoner's name, his “I”, his human individuality, so that the difference between one man and another was a digit more or less in an otherwise identical row of figures … [i]f you remember all this, it may not surprise you to hear that making him wear numbers was the most hurtful and effective way of damaging a prisoner's self-respect.

Primo Levi writes similarly in his own well-known account of the human condition in The Drowned and the Saved (1989, p. 94f):

Altogether different is what must be said about the tattoo [the number], an altogether autochthonous Auschwitzian invention … [t]he operation was not very painful and lasted no more than a minute, but it was traumatic. Its symbolic meaning was clear to everyone: this is an indelible mark, you will never leave here; this is the mark with which slaves are branded and cattle sent to the slaughter, and this is what you have become. You no longer have a name; this is your new name.

And many centuries before both Solzhenitsyn and Levi were to become acknowledged as two of the greatest political consciences of our times, an exile on the isle of Patmos - during the reign of the Emperor Domitian - referred to the abuses of the emperor cult which was practiced in Asia Minor away from the more sophisticated population of Rome [37, pp. 176–196]. He was Saint John the Evangelist, commonly recognized as the author of the Book of Revelation (c. A.D. 95):

16 Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, 17 so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. 18 This calls for wisdom: let him who has understanding reckon the number of the beast, for it is a human number, its number is six hundred and sixty-six (Rev 13:16–18) [RSV, 1973].

The technological infrastructures—the software, the middleware, and the hardware for ULIs—are readily available to support a diverse range of humancentric applications, and increasingly those embedded technologies which will eventually support überveillance. Multi-national corporations, particularly those involved in telecommunications, banking, and health are investing millions (expecting literally billions in return) in identifiable technologies that have a tracking capability. At the same time the media, which in some cases may yield more sway with people than government institutions themselves, squanders its influence and is not intelligently challenging the automatic identification (auto-ID) trajectory. As if in chorus, blockbuster productions from Hollywood are playing up all forms of biometrics as not only hip and smart, but also as unavoidable mini-device fashion accessories for the upwardly mobile and attractive. Advertising plays a dominant role in this cultural tech-rap. Advertisers are well aware that the market is literally limitless and demographically accessible at all levels (and more tantalizingly from cradle-to-grave consumers). Our culture, which in previous generations was for the better part the vanguard against most things detrimental to our collective well-being, is dangerously close to bankrupt (it already is idol worshipping) and has progressively become fecund territory for whatever idiocy might take our fancy. Carl Bernstein [7] captured the atmosphere of recent times very well:

We are in the process of creating what deserves to be called the idiot culture. Not an idiot sub-culture, which every society has bubbling beneath the surface and which can provide harmless fun; but the culture itself. For the first time the weird and the stupid and the coarse are becoming our cultural norm, even our cultural ideal.

Despite the technological fixation with which most of the world is engaged, there is a perceptible mood of a collective disquiet that something is not as it should be. In the face of that, this self-deception of “wellness” is not only taking a stronger hold on us, but it is also being rationalized and deconstructed on many levels. We must break free of this dangerous daydream to make out the cracks that have already started to appear on the gold tinted rim of this seeming 21st century utopia. The machine, the new technicized “gulag archipelago” is ever pitiless and without conscience. It can crush bones, break spirits, and rip out hearts without pausing.

The authors of this article are not anti-government; nor are they conspiracy theorists (though we now know better than to rule out all conspiracy theories). Nor do they believe that these dark scenarios are inevitable. But we do believe that we are close to the point of no return. Others believe that point is much closer [1]. It remains for individuals to speak up and argue for, and to demand regulation, as has happened in several states in the United States where Acts have been established to avoid microchipping without an individual's consent, i.e., compulsory electronic tagging of citizens. Our politicians for a number of reasons will not legislate on this issue of their own accord, with some few exceptions. It would involve multifaceted industry and absorb too much of their time, and there is the fear they might be labelled anti-technology or worse still, failing to do all that they can to fight against “terror.” This is one of the components of the modern-day Realpolitik, which in its push for a transparent society is bulldozing ahead without any true sensibility for the richness, fullness, and sensitivity of the undergrowth. As an actively engaged community, as a body of concerned researchers with an ecumenical conscience and voice, we can make a difference by postponing or even avoiding some of the doomsday scenario outlined here.

Finally, the authors would like to underscore three main points. First, nowhere is it suggested in this paper that medical prosthetic or therapeutic devices are not welcome technological innovations. Second, the positions, projections, and beliefs expressed in this summary do not necessarily reflect the positions, projections, and beliefs of the individual contributors to this special section. And third the authors of the papers do embrace all that which is vital and dynamic with technology, but reject its rampant application and diffusion without studied consideration as to the potential effects and consequences.

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IEEE Keywords: Implants, TV, Data systems, National security, Pressing, Engines, Condition monitoring, Circuits,Feeds, Databases

Citation: M.G. Michael, Katina Michael, Toward a State of Überveillance, IEEE Technology and Society Magazine ( Volume: 29, Issue: 2, Summer 2010 ), pp. 9 - 16, Date of Publication: 01 June 2010, DOI: 10.1109/MTS.2010.937024

Lend Me Your Arms: Use and Implications of RFID Implants

Abstract

Recent developments in the area of RFID have seen the technology expand from its role in industrial and animal tagging applications, to being implantable in humans. With a gap in literature identified between current technological development and future humancentric possibility, little has been previously known about the nature of contemporary humancentric applications. By employing usability context analyses in control, convenience and care-related application areas, we begin to piece together a cohesive view of the current development state of humancentric RFID, as detached from predictive conjecture. This is supplemented by an understanding of the market-based, social and ethical concerns which plague the technology.

1. Introduction

Over the past three decades, Radio-frequency identification (RFID) systems have evolved to become cornerstones of many complex applications. From first beginnings, RFID has been promoted as an innovation in convenience and monitoring efficiencies. Indeed, with RFID supporters predicting the growth of key medical services and security systems, manufacturers are representing the devices as ‘life-enhancing’. Though the lifestyle benefits have long been known, only recently have humans become both integral and interactive components in RFID systems. Where we once carried smart cards or embedded devices interwoven in clothing, RFID technology is now at a point where humans can safely be implanted with small transponders.

This paper aims to explore the current state of development for humancentric applications of RFID. The current state is defined by the intersection of existing development for the subjects and objects of RFID – namely humans and implants. The need for such a study has been identified by a gap in knowledge between present applications and future possibility. This study aims to overcome forecast and provide a cohesive examination of existing humancentric RFID applications. Analysis of future possibility is outside the scope of this study. Instead, a discussion will be provided on present applications, their feasibility, use and social implications.

2. Literature review

The literature review is organized into three main areas – control, convenience, and care. In each of these contexts, literature will be reviewed chronologically.

2.1. The context of control

A control-related humancentric application of RFID is any human use of an implanted RFID transponder that allows an implantee to have power over an aspect of their lives, or, that allows a third party to have power over an implantee. Substantial literature on humancentric control applications begins in 1997 with United States patent 5629678 for a ‘Personal Tracking and Recovery System’. Though the literature scientifically describes the theoretical tracking system for recovery of RFID-implanted humans, no further evidence is available to ascertain whether it has since been developed. Questions as to feasibility of use are not necessarily answered by succeeding literature. Reports of the implantation of British soldiers [1] for example lack the evidentiary support needed to assuage doubts. Further, many articles highlight the technological obstacles besieging humancentric RFID systems. These include GPS hardware miniaturization [2] and creating active RFID tags capable of being safely recharged from within the body. Further adding to reservation, much literature is speculative in nature. Eng [3], for example, predicts that tags will be melded into children to advise parents of their location.

Despite concerns and conjecture, actual implementations of humancentric control applications of RFID have been identified. Both Murray [4] and Eng documented the implantation of Richard Seelig who had tags placed in his hip and arm in response to the September 11 tragedy of 2001. This sophisticated technology was employed to provide security and control over personal identification information. Wilson [5] also provides the example of 11-year old Danielle Duval who has had an active chip (i.e. containing a rechargeable battery) implanted in her. Her mother believes that it is no different to tracking a stolen car, simply that it is being used for another more important application.

2.2. The context of convenience

A convenience-related humancentric application of RFID is any human use of an implanted RFID transponder that increases the ease with which tasks are performed. The first major documented experiment into the use of human-implantable RFID was within this context. Sanchez-Klein [6] and Witt [7] both journalize on the self-implantation of Kevin Warwick, Director of Cybernetics at the University of Reading. They describe results of Warwick’s research by his having doors open, lights switch on and computers respond to the presence of the microchip. Warwick himself gives a review of the research in his article ‘Cyborg 1.0’, however this report is informal and contains emotive descriptions of “fantastic” experiences [8].

Woolnaugh [9], Holden [10], and Vogel [11] all published accounts of the lead-up to Warwick’s second ‘Cyborg 2.0’ experiment and although Woolnaugh’s work involves the documentation of an interview, all three are narrative descriptions of proposed events rather than a critical analysis within definitive research frameworks. Though the commotion surrounding Warwick later died down, speculation did not with Eng proposing a future where credit card features will be available in implanted RFID devices. The result would see commercial transactions made more convenient.

2.3. The context of care

A care-related humancentric application of RFID is any human use of an implanted RFID transponder where function is associated with medicine, health or wellbeing. In initial literature, after the Cyborg 1.0 trial, Kevin Warwick envisioned that with RFID implants paraplegics would walk [7]. Building incrementally on this notion then is the work of Kobetic, Triolo and Uhlir who documented the study of a paraplegic male who had muscular stimuli delivered via an implanted RFID controlled electrical simulation system [12]. Though not allowing the mobility which Warwick dreamt of, results did include increased energy and fitness for the patient.

Outside the research sphere, much literature centers on eight volunteers who were implanted with commercial VeriChip RFID devices in 2002 trials. Murray [13], Black [14], Grossman [15] and Gengler [16] all document medical reasons behind the implantation of four subjects. Supplemented by press releases however, all reports of the trials were journalistic, rather than research-based. In contrast, non-trivial research is found in the work of Michael [17]. Her thesis uses a case study methodology, and a systems of innovation framework, to discuss the adaptation of auto-ID for medical implants.

2.4. Critical response to literature

More recent publications on humancentric RFID include the works of Masters [18], Michael and Michael [19], Perusco and Michael [20], Johnston [21], and Perakslis and Wolk [22]. Masters approaches the subject from the perspective of usability contexts, while Perusco and Michael use document analysis to categorise location services into tag, track and trace applications. Johnston uses content analysis to identify important themes in the literature, supplemented by a small-scale sample survey on the social acceptance of chip implants. Perakslis and Wolk also follow this latter methodology. Of the other (earlier) landmark studies, the majority are concerned with non-humancentric applications. Gerdeman [23], Finkinzeller [24] and Geers [25] all use case studies to investigate non-humancentric RFID and hence our methodological precedent is set here. The bulk of the remaining literature is newstype in nature and the absence of research frameworks is evident. The few exceptions to this include Woolnaugh [9] who conducted an interview and Murray [13] and Eng [3]who provide small case studies. In further criticism the news articles do not demonstrate technological trajectories but speculate on utopian implementations unlikely to be achieved by incremental development in the short to medium-term. Thus, any real value in these news articles can only be found in the documentation of events.

3. Research methodology

Several modes of academic inquiry were used in this study, though usability context analyses were the focal means of research. These analyses are similar to case studies as they investigate “a contemporary phenomenon within its real life context when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident” [26]. They also similarly use multiple sources of evidence, however are differentiated on the basis of the unit of analysis. In a usability context analysis methodology, units are not individuals, groups or organizations but are applications or application areas for a product, where ‘product’ is defined as “any interactive system or device designed to support the performance of users’ tasks” [27]. The results of multiple analyses are more convincing than a singular study, and the broad themes identified cover the major fields of current humancentric RFID development.

Further defining the research framework, the primary question to be answered – ‘what is the current state of application development in the field of humancentric RFID devices?’ – is justifiably exploratory. It entails investigation into contemporary technology usage and seeks to clarify boundaries within the research area. As such, this is a largely qualitative study that uses some elements of descriptive research to enhance the central usability context analyses. The usability context analyses are also supplemented by a discussion of surrounding social, legal and ethical ambiguities. By this means, the addition of a narrative analysis to the methodology ensures a thorough investigation of usage and context.

4. Usability context analysis: control

The usability context analysis for control is divided into three main sub-contexts – security, management, and social controls.

4.1. Security controls

The most basic security application involves controlling personal identification through identifying data stored on a transponder. In theory, the limit to the amount of information stored is subject only to the capacity of the embedded device or associated database. Further, being secured within the body, the loss of the identifier is near impossible even though, as has occurred in herd animals, there are some concerns over possible dislodgement. Accordingly, the main usability drawback lies with reading the information. Implanted identification is useless if it is inaccessible.

Numerous applications have been proposed to assist individuals who depend solely on carers for support. This group consists of newly-born babies, sufferers of mental illness, persons with disabilities and the elderly. One use involves taking existing infant protection systems at birthing centres and internalizing the RFID devices worn by newborns. This would aid in identifying those who cannot identify themselves. Further, when connected to security sensors and alarms, the technology can alert staff to the “unauthorized removal of children” [28]. The South Tyneside Healthcare Trust Trial in the UK is a typical external-use example case. Early in 1995, Eagle Tracer installed an electronic tagging system at the hospital using TIRIS electronic tags and readers from Texas Instruments. Detection aerials were hidden at exit points so that if any baby was taken away without authorisation, its identity would be known and an alarm raised immediately. The trial was so successful that the hospital was considering expanding the system to include the children’s ward. [29] Notably, a number of other institutions have already begun targeting RFID applications toward adolescents. In Japan students are being tagged in a bid to keep them safe. RFID transponders are being placed inside their backpacks and are used to advise parents when their child has arrived at school [30]. A similar practice is being conducted in California where children are being asked to “wear” RFID tags around their necks when on school grounds [31].

Commentators are using this lack of objection to external electronic tagging for minors to highlight the idea that a national identity system based on implants is not impossible. Some believe that there will come a time when it will be common for different groups in the population to have tags implanted at birth. In Britain, chip implantation was suggested for illegal immigrants, asylum seekers and even travellers. Smet [32] argued the following, “[i]f you look to our societies, we are already registered from birth until death. Our governments know who we are and what we are. But one of the basic problems is the numbers of people in the world who are not registered, who do not have a set identity, and when people move with real or fake passports, you cannot identify them.”

4.2. Management controls

Many smart card access systems use RFID technology to associate a cardholder with access permissions to particular locations. Replacing cards with RFID implants alters the form of the ‘key’ but does not require great changes to verification systems. This is because information stored on a RFID microchip in a smart card can be stored on an implanted transponder. Readers are similarly triggered when the transponder is nearby. This application would have greatest value in ‘mission critical’ workplaces or for persons whose role hinges upon access to a particular location. The implanted access pass has the added benefit of being permanently attached to its owner.

Access provision translates easily into employee monitoring. In making the implanted RFID transponder the access pass to certain locations or resources, times of access can be recorded to ensure that the right people are in the right place at the right time. Control in this instance then moves away from ideals of permission and embraces the notion of supervision. A company’s security policy may stipulate that staff badges be secured onto clothing or that employees must wear tags woven into their uniforms. Some employers require their staff to wear RFID tags in a visible location for both identification purposes and access control [33]. In this regard, Olivetti’s “active badge” was ahead of its time when it was first launched [34].

4.3. Social controls

In the military, transponders may serve as an alternative to dog tags. Using RFID, in addition to the standard name, rank and serial number, information ranging from allergies and dietary needs to shoe size can be stored. This purports to ease local administrative burdens, and can eliminate the need to carry identification documents in the field allowing for accurate, immediate identification of Prisoners-Of-War.

Just as humancentric applications of RFID exist for those who enforce law, so too do applications exist for people who have broken it. The concept of ‘electronic jails’ for low-risk offenders is starting to be considered more seriously. In most cases, parolees wear wireless wrist or ankle bracelets and carry small boxes containing the vital tracking technology. Sweden and Australia have implemented this concept and trials are taking place in the UK, US, Netherlands and Canada. In 2002, 27 American states had tested or were using some form of satellite surveillance to monitor parolees [14]. In 2005 there were an estimated 120,000 tracked parolees in the United States alone [35]. Whilst tagging low-risk offenders is not popular in many countries it is far more economical than the conventional jail. Social benefits are also present as there is a level of certainty involved in identifying and monitoring so-called ‘threats’ to society. In a more sinister scenario in South America, chip implants are marketed toward victims of crime rather than offenders. They are seen as a way “to identify kidnapping victims who are drugged, unconscious or dead” [36].

5. Usability context analysis: convenience

The usability context analysis for convenience is divided into three main sub-contexts – assistance, financial services and interactivity.

5.1. Assistance

Automation is the repeated control of a process through technological means. Implied in the process is a relationship, the most common of which involves linking an implantee with appropriate data. Such information in convenience contexts can however be extended to encompass goods or physical objects with which the implantee has an association of ownership or bailment. VeriChip for example, a manufacturer of human-implantable RFID transponders, have developed VeriTag for use in travel. This device allows “personnel to link a VeriChip subscriber to his or her luggage… flight manifest logs and airline or law enforcement software databases” [37]. Convenience is provided for the implantee who receives greater assurance that they and their luggage will arrive at the correct destination, and also for the transport operator who is able to streamline processes using better identification and sorting measures.

Advancing the notion of timing, a period of movement leads to applications that can locate an implantee or find an entity relative to them [38]. This includes “find me”, “find a friend”, “where am I” and “guide me to” solutions. Integrating RFID and GPS technologies with a geographic information systems (GIS) portal such as the Internet-based mapquest.com would also allow users to find destinations based on their current GPS location. The nature of this application lends itself toward roadside assistance or emergency services, where the atypical circumstances surrounding the service may mean that other forms of subscriber identification are inaccessible or unavailable.

5.2. Financial services

Over the last few decades, world economies have acknowledged the rise of the cashless society. In recent years though, alongside traditional contact cards, we have seen the emergence of alternate payment processes. In 2001, Nokia tested the use of RFID in its 5100-series phone covers, allowing the device to be used as a bank facility. RFID readers were placed at McDonalds drive-through restaurants in New York and the consumer could pay their bill by holding their mobile phone near a reader. The reader contacted a wireless banking network and payment was deducted from a credit or debit account. Wired News noted the convenience stating, “there is no dialing, no ATM, no fumbling for a wallet or dropped coins” [39]. These benefits would similarly exist with implanted RFID. Ramo has noted the feasibility, commenting that “in the not too distant future” money could be stored anywhere, as well as “on a chip implant under [the] skin” [40]. Forgetting your wallet would no longer be an issue.

It is also feasible that humancentric RFID eliminates the need to stand in line at a bank. Purely as a means of identification, the unique serial or access key stored on the RFID transponder can be used to prove identity when opening an account or making a transaction. The need to gather paper-based identification is removed and, conveniently, the same identification used to open the account is instantly available if questioned. This has similar benefits for automatic teller machines. When such intermediary transaction devices are fitted with RFID readers, RFID transponders have the ability to replace debit and credit cards. This is in line with Warwick’s prediction that implanted chips “could be used for money transfers, medical records, passports, driving licenses, and loyalty cards” [41].

5.3. Interactivity

On August 24, 1998 Professor Kevin Warwick became the first recorded human to be implanted with an RFID device. Using the transponder, Warwick was able to interact with the ‘intelligent’ building that he worked in. Over the nine days he spent implanted, doors formerly requiring smart card access automatically opened. Lights activated when Warwick entered a room and upon sensing the Professor’s presence his computer greeted him. Warwick’s ‘Project Cyborg 1.0’ experiment thus showed enormous promise for humancentric convenience applications of RFID. The concept of such stand-alone applications expands easily into the development of personal area networks (PANs) and the interactive home or office. With systems available to manage door, light and personal computer preferences based on transponder identification, further climate and environmental changes are similarly exploitable (especially considering non-humancentric versions of these applications already exist) [42].

Given the success of interacting with inanimate locations and objects, the next step is to consider whether person-to-person communication can be achieved using humancentric RFID. Such communication would conveniently eliminate the need for intermediary devices like telephones or post. Answering this question was an aim of ‘Project Cyborg 2.0’ with Warwick writing, “We’d like to send movement and emotion signals from one person to the other, possibly via the Internet” [43]. Warwick’s wife Irena was the second trial subject, being similarly fitted with an implant in her median nerve. Communicating via computer-mediated signals was only met with limited success however. When Irena clenched her fist for example, Professor Warwick received a shot of current through his left index finger [44]. Movement sensations were therefore effectively, though primitively, transmitted.

6. Usability context analysis: care

The usability context analysis for care is divided into three main sub-contexts – medical, biomedical and therapeutic.

6.1. Medical

As implanted transponders contain identifying information, the storage of medical records is an obvious, and perhaps fundamental, humancentric care application of RFID. Similar to other identification purposes, a primary benefit involves the RFID transponder imparting critical information when the human host is otherwise incapable of communicating. In this way, the application is “not much different in principle from devices… such as medic-alert bracelets” [16]. American corporation VeriChip markets their implantable RFID device for this purpose. Approved for distribution throughout the United States in April of 2002, it has been subject to regulation as a medical device by the Food and Drug Administration since October of the same year.

Care-related humancentric RFID devices provide unparalleled portability for medical records. Full benefit cannot be gained without proper infrastructure however. Though having medical data instantly accessible through implanted RFID lends itself to saving lives in an emergency, this cannot be achieved if reader equipment is unavailable. The problem is amplified in the early days of application rollout, as the cost of readers may not be justified until the technology is considered mainstream. Also, as most readers only work with their respective proprietary transponders, questions regarding market monopolies and support for brand names arise.

6.2. Biomedical

A biosensor is a device which “detects, records, and transmits information regarding a physiological change or the presence of various chemical or biological materials in the environment” [45]. It combines biological and electronic components to produce quantitative measurements of biological parameters, or qualitative alerts for biological change. When integrated with humancentric RFID, biosensors can transmit source information as well as biological data. The time savings in simultaneously gathering two distinct data sets are an obvious benefit. Further, combined reading of the biological source and measurement is less likely to encounter the human error linked with manually correlating data to data sources.

Implantable transponders allowing for the measurement of body temperature have been used to monitor livestock for over a decade [25]. As such, the data procurement benefits are well known. It does however give a revolutionary new facet to human care by allowing internal temperature readings to be gained, post-implantation, through non-invasive means. In 1994 Bertrand Cambou, director of technology for Motorola’s Semiconductor Products in Phoenix, predicted that by 2004 all persons would have such a microchip implanted in their body to monitor and perhaps even control blood pressure, their heart rate, and cholesterol levels.[46] Though Cambou’s predictions did not come to timely fruition, the multitude of potential applications are still feasible and include: chemotherapy treatment management; chronic infection or critical care monitoring; organ transplantation treatment management; infertility management; post-operative or medication monitoring; and response to treatment evaluation. Multiple sensors placed on an individual could even form a body area network (BAN).

An implantable RFID device for use by diabetes sufferers has been prototyped by biotechnology firm M-Biotech. The small glucose bio-transponder consisting of a miniature pressure sensor and a glucose-sensitive hydrogel swells “reversibly and to varying degrees” when changes occur in the glucose concentrations of surrounding fluids [47]. Implanted in the abdominal region, a wireless alarm unit carried by the patient continually reads the data, monitoring critical glucose levels.

6.3. Therapeutic

Implanted therapeutic devices are not new; they have been used in humans for many years. Alongside the use of artificial joints for example, radical devices such as pacemakers have become commonplace. The use of RFID with these devices however has re-introduced some novelty to the remedial solution [48]. This is because, while the therapeutic devices remain static in the body, the integration of RFID allows for interactive status readings and monitoring, through identification, of the device.

There are very few proven applications of humancentric RFID in the treatment usability sub-context at current if one puts cochlear implants [49] and smart pills aside [50]. Further, of those applications at the proof of concept stage, benefits to the user are generally gained via an improvement to the quality of living, and not a cure for disease or disability. With applications to restore sight to the blind [51] and re-establish normal bladder function for patients with spinal injuries already in prototyped form however, some propose that real innovative benefit is only a matter of time [52]. Arguably the technology for the applications already exists. All that needs to be prototyped is a correct implementation. Thus, feasibility is perhaps a matter of technological achievement and not technological advancement.

7. Findings

The choice of control, convenience and care contexts for analysis stemmed from the emergence of separate themes in the literature review; however the context analyses themselves showed much congruence between application areas. In all contexts, identification and monitoring are core functions. For control, this functionality exists in security and in management of access to locations and resources. For convenience, identification necessarily provides assistance and monitoring supports interactivity with areas and objects. Care, as the third context, requires identification for medical purposes and highlights biological monitoring as basic functionality.

Table 1. High level benefits and costs for humancentric RFID

With standard identification and monitoring systems as a basis, it is logical that so many humancentric applications of RFID have a mass target market. Medical identification for example is not solely for the infirm because, as humans, we are all susceptible to illness. Similarly, security and convenience are generic wants. Combined with similarities between contextual innovations, mass-market appeal can lead to convergence of applications. One potential combination is in the area of transportation and driver welfare. Here the transponder of an implanted driver could be used for keyless passive entry (convenience), monitoring of health (care), location based services (convenience), roadside assistance (convenience) and, in terms of fleet management or commercial transportation, driver monitoring (control).

Despite parallels and a potential for convergence, development contexts for humancentric RFID are not equal. Instead, control is dominant. Though care can be a cause for control and medical applications are convenient, it is control which filters through other contexts as a central tenet. In convenience applications, control is in the power of automation and mass management, in the authority over environments and devices. For care applications, medical identification is a derivative of identification for security purposes and the use of biosensors or therapeutic devices extends control over well-being. Accordingly, control is the overriding theme encompassing all contexts of humancentric RFID in the current state of development [53].

Alongside the contextual themes encapsulating the usability contexts are the corresponding benefits and costs in each area (Table 1). When taking a narrow view it is clear that many benefits of humancentric RFID are application specific. Therapeutic implants for example have the benefit of the remedy itself. Conversely however, a general concern of applications is that they are largely given to social disadvantages including the onset of religious objections and privacy fears.

7.1. Application quality and support for service

For humancentric RFID, application quality depends on commercial readiness. For those applications being researched, the usability context analyses suggest that the technology, and not the applications, present the largest hurdle. In his Cyborg 1.0 experiments for example, Professor Kevin Warwick kept his transponder implanted for only nine days, as a direct blow would have shattered the glass casing, irreparably damaging nerves and tissue.

Once technological difficulties are overcome and applications move from proof of concept into commercialization, market-based concerns are more relevant. Quality of data is a key issue. In VeriChip applications, users control personal information that is accessible, though stored in the Global VeriChip Subscriber Registry database, through their implanted transponder. The system does not appear to account for data correlation however, and there is a risk of human error in information provision and in data entry. This indicates the need for industry standards, allowing a quality framework for humancentric RFID applications to be created and managed.

Industry standards are also relevant to support services. In humancentric applications of RFID they are especially needed as much usability, adjunct to the implanted transponder, centers upon peripherals and their interoperability. Most proprietary RFID readers for instance can only read data from similarly proprietary transponders. In medical applications though, where failure to harness available technology can have dramatic results, an implantee with an incompatible, and therefore unreadable, transponder is no better off for using the application. Accordingly, for humancentric RFID to realize its promotion as ‘life-enhancing’, standards for compatibility between differently branded devices must be developed.

Lastly, the site of implantation should be standardized as even if an implanted transponder is known to exist, difficulties may arise in discerning its location. Without a common site for implantation finding an implanted RFID device can be tedious. This is disadvantageous for medical, location-based or other critical implementations where time is a decisive factor in the success of the application. It is also a disadvantage in more general terms as the lack of standards suggests that though technological capability is available, there is no social framework ready to accept it.

7.2. Commercial viability for the consumer

A humancentric application of RFID must satisfy a valid need to be considered marketable. This is especially crucial as the source of the application, the transponder, requires an invasive installation and, afterwards, cannot be easily removed. Add to this that humancentric RFID is a relatively new offering with few known long-term effects, and participation is likely to be a highly considered decision. Thus, despite many applications having a mass target market, the value of the application to the individual will determine boundaries and commercial viability.

Value is not necessarily cost-based. Indeed, with the VeriChip sold at a cost of $US200 plus a $10 per month service fee, it is not being marketed as a toy for the elite. Instead, value and application scope are assessed in terms of life enhancement. Therapeutic devices for example provide obvious remedial benefit, but the viability of a financial identification system may be limited by available infrastructure.

Arguably, commercial viability is increased by the ability of one transponder to support multiple applications. Identification applications for example are available in control, convenience and care usability contexts. The question arises however, as to what occurs when different manufacturers market largely different applications? Where no real interoperability exists for humancentric RFID devices, it is likely that users must be implanted with multiple transponders from multiple providers. Further, given the power and processing constraint of multi-application transponders in the current state of development, the lack of transponder portability reflects negatively on commercial viability and suggests that each application change or upgrade may require further implantation and bodily invasion.

7.3. Commercial viability for the manufacturer

Taking VeriChip as a case study, one is led to believe that there is a commercially viable market for humancentric applications of RFID. Indeed, where the branded transponder is being sold in North and South America, and has been showcased in Europe [54], a global want for the technology is suggested. It must be recognized, however, that in the current state of development VeriChip and its parent, Applied Digital Solutions have a monopoly over those humancentric RFID devices approved for use. As such, their statistics and market growth have not been affected by competition and there is no comparative data. The difference between a successful public relations campaign and reality is therefore hard to discern.

Interestingly, in non-humancentric commercial markets, mass rollouts of RFID have been scaled back. Problems have arisen specifically in animal applications. The original implementation of the 1996 standards, ISO 11784: ‘Radio-frequency identification of animals – Code structure’ and ISO 11785: ‘Radio-frequency identification of animals – Technical concept’ for example, were the subject of extensive complaint [55]. Not only did the standards not require unique identification codes, they violated the patent policy of the International Standards Organization. Even after the ISO standards were returned to the SC19 Working Group 3 for review, a general lack of acceptance equated to limited success. Moreover, moves have now been made to ban the use of implantable transponders in herd animals. In a high percentage of cases the transponder moved in the fat layer, raising concerns that it might be later consumed by humans. Further, the meat quality was degraded as animals sensing the existence of an implanted foreign object produced antibodies to ‘attack’ it [18].

8. Discussion

8.1. Personal privacy

Given its contactless nature and non-line-of-sight (nLoS) capability, RFID has the ability to automatically collect a great deal of data about an individual in a covert and unobtrusive way. Hypothetically, a transponder implanted within a human can communicate with any number of readers it may pass in any given day. This opens up a plethora of possibilities, including the ability to link data based on a unique identifier (i.e. the chip implant), to locate and track an individual over time, and to look at individual patterns of behaviour. The severity of violations to personal privacy increase as data collected for one purpose is linked with completely separate datasets gathered for another purpose. Consider the use of an implant that deducts programmed payment for road tolls as you drive through sensor-based stations. Imagine this same data originally gathered for traffic management now being used to detect speeding and traffic infringements, resulting in the automatic issue of a fine. Real cases with respect to GPS and fleet management have already been documented. Kumagi and Cherry [56] describe how one family was billed an “out-of-state penalty” by their rental company based on GPS data that was gathered for a completely different reason. Stanford [57] menacingly calls this a type of data use “scope creep” while Papasliotis [58] more pleasantly deems it “knowledge discovery”.

These notions of ‘every-day’ information gathering, where an implantee must submit to information gathering practices in return for access to services, offends the absolutist view of privacy and “an individual [having] the right to control the use of his information in all circumstances” [59]. Indeed, given their implantation beneath the skin, the very nature of humancentric transponders negates the individual’s ability to ‘control’ the device and what flows from it. Not only do the majority of consumers lack the technical ability to either embed or remove implants but they naturally lack the ability to know when their device is emitting data and when it is not. There is also a limited understanding of what information ‘systems’ are actually gathering. This becomes a greater danger when we note that laws in different jurisdictions provide little restraint on the data mining of commercial databases by commercial entities. In this instance, there would be little to stop RFID service providers from mining data collected from their subscribers and on-selling it to other organisations.

Moreover, even where ethical data usage is not questioned, intellectual property directives in Europe may hamper the promise of some service providers to keep consumer data private. According to Papasliotis [58] “… the proposed EU Intellectual Property (IP) Enforcement Directive includes a measure that would make it illegal for European citizens to de-activate the chips in RFID tags, on the ground that the owner of the tag has an intellectual property right in the chip. De-activating the tag could arguably be treated as an infringement of that right”.

8.2. Data security

Relevant approaches to RFID security in relation to inanimate objects have been discussed in the literature. Gao [60] summarises these methods as “killing tags at the checkout, applying a rewritable memory, physical tag memory separation, hash encryption, random access hash, and hash chains”. Transponders that are embedded within the body pose a different type of data security requirement though. They are not in the body so they can be turned off, this being a circumvention of the original purpose of implantation. Instead, they are required to provide a persistent and unique identifier. In the US however, also thwarting an original purpose, a study has shown that some RFID transponders are capable of being cloned, meaning the prospect of fraud or theft may still exist [61]. One possibility, as proposed by Perakslis and Wolk [22], is the added security of saving an individual’s feature vector onboard the RFID chip. Biometrics too, however, is fraught with its own problems [62]. Despite some moves in criminal justice systems, it is still controversial to say that one’s fingerprint or facial image should be held on a public or private database.

Unfortunately, whatever the security, researchers like Stanford believe it is a “virtual certainty” that tags and their respective systems “will be abused” by some providers [57]. Here, the main risk for consumers involves third parties gaining access to personal data without prior notice. To this end, gaining and maintaining the trust of consumers is essential to the success of the technology. Mature trust models need to be architected and implemented, but more importantly they need to be understood outside of an academic context. Though it is important that trust continues to grow as an area of study within the e-commerce arena, it will be the practical operation of oversight companies like VeriSign in these early days of global information gathering which will allow consumers to create their own standards and opinions.

Outside of clear ethical concerns regarding third-party interests in information, another temptation for service providers surrounds the use of data to target individual consumer sales in value-added services and service-sets relying on location information. Though not an extreme concern in itself, we note that any such sales will face the more immediate concern of deciding on a secure and standard location for implants. For now live services place the implant in the left or right arm but the problems with designating such a zone surround the possibility of exclusion. What if the consumer is an amputee or has prosthetic limbs? Surely the limited space of the human body means that certain things are possible, while others are not. Thus, recognizing the limitations of the human body, will service providers brand transponders and allow multifunctional tags for different niche services? Which party then owns the transponder? The largest service provider, the government or agency acting as an issuer, or the individual? Who is responsible for accuracy and liable for errors? And more importantly, who is liable for break-downs in communication when services are unavailable and disaster results?

8.3. Ethical considerations

Molnar and Wagner [63] ask the definitive question “[i]s the cost of privacy and security “worth it”?” Stajano [64] answers by reminding us that, “[t]he benefits for consumers remain largely hypothetical, while the privacy-invading threats are real”. Indeed, when we add to privacy concerns the unknown health impacts, the potential changes to cultural and social interaction, the circumvention of religious and philosophical ideals, and a potential mandatory deployment, then the disadvantages of the technology seem almost burdensome. For the present, proponents of emerging humancentric RFID rebuke any negatives “under the aegis of personal and national security, enhanced working standards, reduced medical risks, protection of personal assets, and overall ease-of-living” [22]. Unless there are stringent ethical safeguards however, there is a potential for enhanced national security to come at the cost of freedom, or for enhanced working standards to devalue the importance of employee satisfaction. The innovative nature of the technology should not be cause to excuse it from the same “judicial or procedural constraints which limit the extent to which traditional surveillance technologies are permitted to infringe privacy” [58].

Garfinkel et al. [61] provide a thorough discussion on key considerations in their paper. Though their main focus is on users of RFID systems and purchasers of products containing RFID tags, the conclusions drawn are also relevant to the greater sphere of humancentric RFID. Firstly, Garfinkel et al. begin by stipulating that a user has the right to know if the product they have purchased contains an RFID tag. In the current climate of human transponder implant acceptance, it is safe to assume that an individual who has requested implantation knows of their implant and its location. But, does the guardian of an Alzheimer’s patient or adult schizophrenic, have the right to impose an implant on behalf of the sufferer for monitoring or medical purposes [65]?

Secondly, the user has the right to have embedded RFID tags “removed, deactivated, or destroyed” [61] at or after purchase. Applied to humancentric implantation, this point poses a number of difficulties. The user cannot remove the implant themselves without some physical harm, they have no real way of finding out whether a remaining implant has in fact been ‘deactivated’, and destroying an implant without its removal from the body implies some form of amputation. Garfinkel et al.’s third ethical consideration is that an individual should have alternatives to RFID. In the embedded scenario users should then also have to ability to opt-in to new services and opt-out of their current service set as they see fit. Given the nature of RFID however, there is little to indicate the success or failure of a stipulated user requested change, save for a receipt message that may be sent to a web client from the server. Quite possibly the user may not be aware that they have failed to opt out of a service until they receive their next billing statement.

The fourth notion involves the right to know what information is stored on the RFID transponder and whether or not this information is correct, while the fifth point is “the right to know when, where and why a RFID tag is being read” [61]. This is quite difficult to exercise, especially where unobtrusiveness is considered a goal of the RFID system. In the resultant struggle between privacy, convenience, streamlining and bureaucracy, the number of times RFID transponders are triggered in certain applications may mean that the end-user is bombarded with a very long statement of transactions.

8.4. The privacy fear and the threat of totalitarianism?

Mark Weiser, the founding father of ubiquitous computing, once said that the problem surrounding the introduction of new technologies is “often couched in terms of privacy, [but] is really one of control” [59]. Indeed, given that humans do not by nature trust others to safeguard our own individual privacy, in controlling technology we feel we can also control access to any social implications stemming from it. At its simplest, this highlights the different focus between the end result of using technology and the administration of its use. It becomes the choice between the idea that I am given privacy and the idea that I control how much privacy I have. In this regard, privacy is traded for service.

Fig. 1. The privacy-security trade-off.

What some civil libertarians fear beyond privacy exchange though is a government-driven mandatory introduction of invasive technologies based on the premise of national security. While the safety and security argument has obviously paved the way for some technologies in response to the new environment of terrorism and identity fraud [38], there is now a concern that further advancements will begin to infringe on the freedoms that security paradigms were originally designed to protect. For invasive technology like humancentric RFID, the concerns are multiplied as the automated nature of information gathering means that proximity to a reader, and not personal choice, may often be the only factor in deciding whether or not a transponder will be triggered. Though most believe that government-imposed mandatory implantation is a highly unlikely outcome of advancements in humancentric RFID, it should be recognised that a voluntary implantation scheme offers negligible benefits to a government body given the incompleteness of the associated data set. This is equally true of private enterprises that mandate the use of transponders in employees, inmates or other distinct population groups.

Where the usability context of control then becomes the realm of government organizations and private enterprise, RFID regulation is increasingly important. Not only is regulation necessary for ensuring legitimacy in control-type applications, it is also needed to prevent the perversion of convenience and care-related uses. For example, many of those implanted with RFID transponders today might consider them to be life-saving devices and the service-oriented nature of these applications means they must clearly remain voluntary (Table 2). If the data collected by the device was also to be used for law enforcement or government surveillance purposes however, users may think twice about employing the technology. In regulating then we do not want to allow unrestricted deployment and unparalleled capabilities for commercial data mining, but nor should we allow a doomsday scenario where all citizens are monitored in a techno-totalitarian state [61]. Any scope for such design of regulations must be considered in light of the illustrated privacy/security trade-off (Fig. 1). Taking any two vertices of the government – service provider – consumer triangle, privacy or security (which can often be equated with ‘control’) will always be traded in relation to the third vertex. For example, where we combine government and service providers in terms of security regulations and the protection of national interests, the consumer is guaranteed to forgo certain amounts of privacy. Similarly, where we combine government and the consumer as a means of ensuring privacy for the individual, the service provider becomes limited in the control it holds over information gathered (if indeed it is still allowed to gather information).

Table 2. Mapping contexts to the environment

9. Conclusion

In the current state of humancentric development, stand-alone applications exist for control, convenience and care purposes, but as control is the dominant context its effects can be seen in other application areas. Applications are also influenced by power and processing confines, and as such, many functions have simple bases in identification or monitoring. Application usage is made more complex however, as a need for peripherals (including readers and information storage systems) is restrained by a lack of industry standards for interoperability. Though the technology has been deemed feasible in both research and commercially approved contexts, the market for humancentric applications of RFID is still evolving. Initial adoption of the technology has met with some success but, as research continues into humancentric applications of RFID, the market is still too niche for truly low-cost, high-quality application services. Any real assessment of the industry is further prejudiced by commercial monopoly and limited research into the long-term effects of use. Coupled with security and privacy concerns, then the long-term commercial viability for humancentric applications of RFID is questionable. In the short- to medium-term, adoption of humancentric RFID technology and use of related applications will be hindered by a lack of infrastructure, a lack of standards, not only as to interoperability but also as to support for service and transponder placement, and the lack of response from developers and regulators to mounting ethical dilemmas.

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Keywords: Radio-frequency identification, Transponders, Chip implants, Humancentric applications, Usability context analysis, Location tracking, Personal privacy, Data security, Ethics

Citation: Amelia Masters and Katina Michael, "Lend me your arms: The use and implications of humancentric RFID, Electronic Commerce Research and Applications, Vol. 6, No. 1, Spring 2007, Pages 29-39, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.elerap.2006.04.008

The Social, Cultural, Religious and Ethical Implications of Automatic Identification

Katina Michael, School of Information Technology & Computer Science, University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia 2500, katina@uow.edu.au

M.G. Michael, American Academy of Religion, PO Box U184, University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia 2500, mgm@uow.edu.au

Full Citation: Katina Michael, M.G. Michael, 2004, The Social, Cultural, Religious and Ethical Implications of Automatic Identification, Seventh International Conference on Electronic Commerce Research (ICER-7), University of Texas, Dallas, Texas, USA, June 10-13. Sponsored by ATSMA, IFIP Working Group 7.3, INFORMS Information Society.

Abstract

The number of automatic identification (auto-ID) technologies being utilized in eBusiness applications is growing rapidly. With an increasing trend toward miniaturization and wireless capabilities, auto-ID technologies are becoming more and more pervasive. The pace at which new product innovations are being introduced far outweighs the ability for citizens to absorb what these changes actually mean, and what their likely impact will be upon future generations. This paper attempts to cover a broad spectrum of issues ranging from the social, cultural, religious and ethical implications of auto-ID with an emphasis on human transponder implants. Previous work is brought together and presented in a way that offers a holistic view of the current state of proceedings, granting an up-to-date bibliography on the topic. The concluding point of this paper is that the long-term side effects of new auto-ID technologies should be considered at the outset and not after it has enjoyed widespread diffusion.

1.  Introduction

Automatic identification is the process of identifying a living or nonliving object without direct human intervention. Before auto-ID only manual identification techniques existed, such as tattoos [[i]] and fingerprints, which did not allow for the automatic capture of data (see exhibit 1.1). Auto-ID becomes an e-business application enabler when authorization or verification is required before a transaction can take place. Many researchers credit the vision of a cashless society to the capabilities of auto-ID. Since the 1960s automatic identification has proliferated especially for mass-market applications such as electronic banking and citizen ID. Together with increases in computer processing power, storage equipment and networking capabilities, miniaturization and mobility have heightened the significance of auto-ID to e-business, especially mobile commerce. Citizens are now carrying multiple devices with multiple IDs, including ATM cards, credit cards, private and public health insurance cards, retail loyalty cards, school student cards, library cards, gym cards, licenses to drive automobiles, passports to travel by air and ship, voting cards etc. More sophisticated auto-ID devices like smart card and radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags and transponders that house unique lifetime identifiers (ULI) or biometric templates are increasingly being considered for business-to-consumer (B2C) and government-to-citizen (G2C) transactions. For example, the United States (US) is enforcing the use of biometrics on passports due to the increasing threats of terrorism, and Britain has openly announced plans to begin implanting illegal immigrants with RFID transponders. Internationally, countries are also taking measures to decrease the multi-million dollar costs of fraudulent claims made to social security by updating their citizen identification systems.

Exhibit 1.1 &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Manual versus Automatic Identification Techniques

Exhibit 1.1     Manual versus Automatic Identification Techniques

2.  Literature Review

The relative ease of performing electronic transactions by using auto-ID has raised a number of social, cultural, religious and ethical issues. Among others, civil libertarians, religious advocates and conspiracy theorists have long cast doubts on the technology and the ultimate use of the information gathered by it. Claims that auto-ID technology impinges on human rights, the right to privacy, and that eventually it will lead to totalitarian control of the populace have been put forward since the 1970s. This paper aims to explore these themes with a particular emphasis on emerging human transponder implant technology. At present, several US companies are marketing e-business services that allow for the tracking and monitoring of individuals using RFID implants in the subcutaneous layer of the skin or Global Positioning System (GPS) wristwatches worn by enrollees. To date previous literature has not consistently addressed philosophical issues related to chip implants for humans in the context of e-business. In fact, popular online news sources like CNN [[ii]] and the BBC [[iii]] are among the few mainline publishers discussing the topic seriously, albeit in a fragmented manner. The credible articles on implanting humans are mostly interviews conducted with proponents of the technology, such as Applied Digital Solutions (ADSX) [[iv]] representatives who are makers of the VeriChip system solution [[v]]; Professor Kevin Warwick of the University of Reading who is known for his Cyborg 1.0 and 2.0 projects [[vi]]; and implantees like the Jacobs family in the US who bear RF/ID transponder implants [[vii]]. Block passages from these interviews are quoted throughout this paper to bring some of the major issues to the fore using a holistic approach.

More recently academic papers on human transponder implants covering various perspectives have surfaced on the following topics: legal and privacy [[viii], [ix]], ethics and culture [[x]], technological problems and health concerns [[xi]], technological progress [[xii]], trajectories [[xiii], [xiv]]. While there is a considerable amount of other popular material available especially on the Internet related to human chip implants, much of it is subjective and not properly sourced. One major criticism of these reports is that the reader is left pondering as to the authenticity of the accounts provided with little evidence to support respective claims and conclusions. Authorship of this literature is another problem. Often these articles are contributed anonymously, and when they do cite an author’s name, the level of technical understanding portrayed by the individual is severely lacking to the detriment of what he/she is trying to convey, even if there is a case to be argued. Thus, the gap this paper seeks to fill is to provide a sober presentation of cross-disciplinary perspectives on topical auto-ID issues with an emphasis on human transponder implants, and second to document some of the more thought-provoking discussion which has already taken place on the topic, complemented by a complete introductory bibliography.

3.  Method

Articles on auto-ID in general have failed to address the major philosophical issues using a holistic approach. For instance, Woodward [[xv]] is one of the few authors to have mentioned anything overly substantial about religious issues, with respect to biometric technology in a recognized journal. Previously the focus has basically been on privacy concerns and Big Brother fears. While such themes are discussed in this paper as well, the goal is to cover a broader list of issues than the commonplace. This is the very reason why two researchers with two very different backgrounds, one in science and the other in humanities, have collaborated to write this paper. A qualitative strategy is employed in this investigation to explore the major themes identified in the literature review. It should be noted however that legal, regulatory, economic and related policy issues such as standards, have been omitted because the aim of this paper is not to inform a purely technical audience or an audience which is strictly concerned with policy. It is aimed rather at the potential end-user of auto-ID devices and at technology companies who are continually involved in the process of auto-ID innovation.

Original material is quoted extensively to ensure that the facts are presented “as is.” There is nothing lost in simplified translations and the full weight of argument is retained, raw and uncut. The authors therefore cannot be accused of bias or misrepresentation. The sheer breadth of literature used for this investigation ensures reliability and validity in the findings. The narrative reporting style helps to guide readers through the paper, allowing individuals to form their own opinions and interpretations of what is being presented. Evidence for the issues discussed has been gathered from a wide variety of sources including offline and online documentation. High level content analysis has been performed to aid in the grouping of categories of discussion including social, cultural, religious and ethical issues that form the skeleton of the main body of the article as a way to identify emerging trends and patterns. Subcategories are also useful in identifying the second tier themes covered, helping to reduce complexity in analysis. The subcategories also allow for links to be made between themes. A highly intricate thread runs through the whole paper telling the story of not just auto-ID but the impacts of the information technology and telecommunications (IT&T) revolution [[xvi]]. There is therefore a predictive element to the paper as well which is meant to confront the reader with some present and future scenarios. The ‘what if’ questions are important as it is hoped they will generate public debate on the major social, cultural, religious and ethical implications of RFID implants in humans.

4. Towards Ubiquitous Computing

Section 4 is wholly dedicated to providing a background in which to understand auto-ID innovation; it will also grant some perspective to the tremendous pace of change in IT&T; and note some of the more grounded predictions about the future of computing. The focus is on wearable and ubiquitous computing within which auto-ID will play a crucial role. This section will help the reader place the evidence presented in the main body of the article into an appropriate context. The reader will thus be able to interpret the findings more precisely once the basic setting has been established, allowing each individual to form their own opinions about the issues being presented.

From personal computers (PCs) to laptops to personal digital assistants (PDAs) and from landline phones to cellular phones to wireless wristwatches, miniaturization and mobility have acted to shift the way in which computing is perceived by humans. Lemonick [[xvii]] captures this pace of change well in the following excerpt:

[i]t took humanity more than 2 million years to invent wheels but only about 5,000 years more to drive those wheels with a steam engine. The first computers filled entire rooms, and it took 35 years to make the machines fit on a desk- but the leap from desktop to laptop took less than a decade… What will the next decade bring, as we move into a new millennium? That’s getting harder and harder to predict.

Once a stationary medium, computers are now portable, they go wherever humans go [[xviii]]. This can be described as technology becoming more human-centric, “where products are designed to work for us, and not us for them” [[xix]]. Thus, the paradigm shift is from desktop computing to wearable computing [[xx]]. Quite remarkably in the pursuit of miniaturization, little has been lost in terms of processing power. “The enormous progress in electronic miniaturization make it possible to fit many components and complex interconnection structures into an extremely small area using high-density printed circuit and multichip substrates” [[xxi]]. We now have so-named Matchbox PCs that are no larger than a box of matches with the ability to house fully functional operating systems [[xxii]]. “The development of wearable computer systems has been rapid. Salonen [[xxiii]], among others [[xxiv]] are of the belief that “quite soon we will see a wide range of unobtrusive wearable and ubiquitous computing equipment integrated into our everyday wear”. The next ten years will see wearable computing devices become an integral part of our daily lives, especially as the price for devices keeps falling. Whether noticeable or not by users, the change has already begun. Technology is increasingly becoming an extension of the human body, whether it is by carrying smart cards or electronic tags [[xxv]] or even PDAs and mobile phones. Furui [[xxvi]] predicts that “[p]eople will actually walk through their day-to-day lives wearing several computers at a time.” Cochrane described this phenomenon as technology being an omnipresent part of our lives. Not only will devices become small and compact but they will be embedded in our bodies, invisible to anyone else [[xxvii]]. For the time being however, we are witnessing the transition period in which auto-ID devices especially are being trialled upon those who either i) desperately require their use for medical purposes or ii) who cannot challenge their application, such as in the case of armed forces or prison inmates. Eventually, the new technology will be opened to the wider market in a voluntary nature but will most likely become a de facto compulsory standard (i.e. such as in the case of the mobile phone today), and inevitably mandatory as it is linked to some kind of requirement for survival. Upon reflection, this is the pattern that most successful high-tech innovations throughout history have followed.

Mark Weiser first conceived the term “ubiquitous computing” to espouse all those small information systems (IS) devices, including calculators, electronic calendars and communicators that users would carry with them every day [[xxviii]]. It is important to make the distinction between ubiquitous and wearable computing. They “have been posed as polar opposites even though they are often applied in very similar applications” [[xxix]]. Kaku [[xxx]] stated that ubiquitous computing, is the time “when computers are all connected to each other and the ratio of computers to people flips the other way, with as many as one hundred computers for every person.” This latter definition implies a ubiquitous environment that allows the user to seamlessly interface with computer systems around them. Environments of the future are predicted to be context-aware so that users are not disturbed in every context, save for when it is suitable [[xxxi]]. Kortuem [[xxxii]] stated that “[s]uch environments might be found at the home, at the office, at factory floors, or even vehicles.” There is some debate however of where to place sensors in these environments. For example, should they be located around the room or should they be located on the individual. Locating sensors around the room enforces certain conditions on an individual, while locating sensors on an individual means that that person is actually in control of their context. The latter case also requires less localized infrastructure and a greater degree of freedom. Rhodes et al. [29] argue that by “properly combining wearable computing and ubiquitous computing, a system can have the advantages of both.”

5.  Social Issues

5.1 Privacy Concerns and Big Brother Fears

Starner [[xxxiii]] makes the distinction between privacy and security concerns. “Security involves the protection of information from unauthorized users; privacy is the individual’s right to control the collection and use of personal information.” Mills [[xxxiv]] is of the opinion that some technology, like communications, is not non-neutral but totalitarian in nature and that it can make citizens passive. “These glamorous technologies extend and integrate cradle-to-grave surveillance, annihilating all concept of a right to personal privacy, and help consolidate the power of the national security state… every technology, being a form of power, has implicit values and politics…” Over the years terms like Big Brother [[xxxv], [xxxvi]] and function creep [[xxxvii]] have proliferated to correspond to the all-seeing eyes of government and to the misuse and abuse of data. In most western countries data matching programs were constructed, linked to a unique citizen ID, to cross-check details provided by citizens, claims made, and benefits distributed [[xxxviii], [xxxix]]. More recently however, the trend has tended towards information centralization between government agencies based around the auspices of a national ID to reduce fraud [[xl]] and to combat terrorism [[xli]]. Currently computers allow for the storage and searching of data gathered like never before [[xlii]]. The range of automated data collection devices continues to increase to include systems such as bar codes (with RF capabilities), magnetic-stripe card, smart card and a variety of biometric techniques, increasing the rapidity and ease at which information is gathered. RFID transponders especially have added a greater granularity of precision in in-building and campus-wide solutions, given the wireless edge, allowing information to be gathered within a closed environment, anywhere/ anytime, transparent to the individual carrying the RFID badge or tag.

Now, while auto-ID itself is supposed to ensure privacy, it is the ease with which data can be collected that has some advocates concerned about the ultimate use of personal information. While the devices are secure, breaches in privacy can happen at any level- especially at the database level where information is ultimately stored after it is collected [[xliii]]. How this information is used, how it is matched with other data, who has access to it, is what has caused many citizens to be cautious about auto-ID in general [[xliv]]. Data mining also has altered how data is filtered, sifted and utilized all in the name of customer relationship management (CRM). It is not difficult to obtain telemarketing lists, census information aggregated to a granular level, and mapping tools to represent market segments visually. Rothfeder [[xlv]] states:

[m]edical files, financial and personnel records, Social Security numbers, and telephone call histories- as well as information about our lifestyle preferences, where we shop, and even what car we drive- are available quickly and cheaply.

Looking forward, the potential for privacy issues linked to chip implants is something that has been considered but mostly granted attention by the media. Privacy advocates warn that such a chip would impact civil liberties in a disastrous way [[xlvi]]. Even Warwick, himself, is aware that chip implants do not promote an air of assurance:

Looking back, Warwick admits that the whole experiment [Cyborg 1.0] “smacked of Big Brother.” He insists, however, that it’s important to raise awareness of what’s already technically possible so that we can remain in the driver’s seat. “I have a sneaking suspicion,” he says, “that as long as we’re gaining things, we’ll yell ‘Let’s have Big Brother now!’ It’s when we’re locked in and the lights start going off- then Big Brother is a problem.” [[xlvii]]

In this instance, Warwick has made an important observation. So long as individuals are “gaining” they generally will voluntarily part with a little more information. It is when they stop gaining and blatantly start being taken advantage of that the idea of Big Brother is raised. On that point, chip implants promise the convenience of not having to carry a multitude of auto-ID devices, perhaps not even a wallet or purse.

According to McGinity [18] “[e]xperts say it [the chip] could carry all your personal information, medical background, insurance, banking information, passport information, address, phone number, social security number, birth certificate, marriage license.” This kind of data collection is considered by civil libertarians to be “crypto-fascism or high-tech slavery” [[xlviii]]. The potential for abuse cannot be overstated [[xlix]]. Salkowski agrees pointing to the ADSX VeriChip system, stating that police, parents and ADSX employees could abuse their power. “It might even be possible for estranged spouses, employers and anyone else with a grudge to get their hands on tracking data through a civil subpoena” [[l]]. Hackers too, could try their hand at collecting data without the knowledge of the individual, given that wireless transmission is susceptible to interception. At the same time, the chip implant may become a prerequisite to health insurance and other services. “You could have a scenario where insurance companies refuse to insure you unless you agree to have a chip implant to monitor the level of physical activity you do” says Pearson of British Telecom [[li]]. This should not be surprising given that insurance companies already ask individuals for a medical history of illnesses upon joining a new plan. Proponents say the chip would just contain this information more accurately [7]. Furthermore, “[c]ost-conscious insurance companies are sure to be impressed, because the portability of biomems [i.e., a type of medical chip implant] would allow even a seriously ill patient to be monitored after surgery or treatment on an outpatient basis” [[lii]]. Now a chip storing personal information is quite different to one used to monitor health 24x7x365 and then to relay diagnoses to relevant stakeholders. As Chris Hoofnagle, an attorney for the Electronic Privacy Information Centre in Washington, D.C., pointed out, “[y]ou always have to think about what the device will be used for tomorrow” [[liii]]. In its essential aspect, this is exactly the void this paper has tried to fill.

5.2 Mandatory Proof of Identification

In the US in 2001 several bills were passed in Congress to allow for the creation of three new Acts related to biometric identification of citizens and aliens, including the Patriot Act, Aviation and Transport Security Act, and the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act. If terrorism attacks continue to increase in frequency, there is a growing prospect in the use of chip implants for identification purposes and GPS for tracking and monitoring. It is not an impossible scenario to consider that one day these devices may be incorporated into national identification schemes. During the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak, Singapore [[liv]] and Taiwan [[lv]] considered going as far as tagging their whole population with RFID devices to monitor automatically the spread of the virus. Yet, independent of such random and sporadic events, governments worldwide are already moving toward the introduction of a single unique ID to cater for a diversity of citizen applications. Opinions on the possibility of widespread chip implants in humans range from “it would be a good idea,” to “it would be a good idea, but only for commercial applications not government applications,” to “this should never be allowed to happen”. Leslie Jacobs, who was one of the first to receive a VeriChip told Scheeres [[lvi]], “[t]he world would be a safer place if authorities had a tamper-proof way of identifying people… I have nothing to hide, so I wouldn’t mind having the chip for verification… I already have an ID card, so why not have a chip?” It should be noted that some tracking and monitoring systems can be turned off and on by the wearer, making monitoring theoretically voluntary [[lvii]]. Sullivan a spokesperson for ADSX, said: “[i]t will not intrude on personal privacy except in applications applied to the tracking of criminals” [49]. ADSX have claimed on a number of occasions that it has received more than two thousand emails from teenagers volunteering to be the next to be “chipped” [[lviii]]. There are others like McClimans [[lix]] that believe that everyone should get chipped. Cunha Lima, a Brazilian politician who also has a chip implant is not ignorant of the potential for invasion of privacy but believes the benefits outweigh the costs and that so long as the new technology is voluntary and not mandatory there is nothing to worry about. He has said, “[i]f one chooses to ‘be chipped,’ then one has considered the consequences of that action” [[lx]]. Lima argues that he feels more secure with an implant given the number of kidnappings in South America of high profile people each year- at least this way his location is always known.

Professor Brad Meyers of the Computer Science Department at Carnegie Mellon University believes that the chip implant technology has a place but should not be used by governments. Yet the overriding sentiment is that chip implants will be used by government before too long. Salkowski [50] has said, “[i]f you doubt there are governments that would force at least some of their citizens to carry tracking implants, you need to start reading the news a little more often.” Black [53] echoes these sentiments: “Strictly voluntary? So far so good. But now imagine that same chip being used by a totalitarian government to keep track of or round up political activists or others who are considered enemies of the state. In the wrong hands, the VeriChip could empower the wrong people.” In a report written by Ramesh [[lxi]] for the Franklin Pierce Law Centre the prediction is made that: 

[a] national identification system via microchip implants could be achieved in two stages: Upon introduction as a voluntary system, the microchip implantation will appear to be palatable. After there is a familiarity with the procedure and a knowledge of its benefits, implantation would be mandatory.

Bob Gellman, a Washington privacy consultant, likens this to “a sort of modern version of tattooing people, something that for obvious reasons- the Nazis tattooed numbers of people- no one proposes” [49, [lxii], [lxiii]]. The real issue at hand as Gellman sees it is “who will be able to demand that a chip be implanted in another person.” Mieszkowski supports Gray by observing how quickly a new technological “option” can become a requirement. Resistance after the voluntary adoption stage can be rather futile if momentum is leading the device towards a mandatory role.

McMurchie [[lxiv]] reveals the subtle progression toward embedded devices:

[a]s we look at wearable computers, it’s not a big jump to say, ‘OK, you have a wearable, why not just embed the device?’… And no one can rule out the possibility that employees might one day be asked to sport embedded chips for ultimate access control and security…

Professor Chris Hables Gray uses the example of prospective military chip implant applications. How can a marine, for instance, resist implantation? Timothy McVeigh, convicted Oklahoma bomber, claimed that during the Gulf War, he was implanted with a microchip against his will. The claims have been denied by the U.S. military [[lxv]], however the British Army is supposedly considering projects such as APRIL (Army Personnel Rationalization Individual Listings) [51]. Some cyberpunks have attempted to counteract the possibility of enforced implantation. One punk known by the name of “Z.L” is an avid reader of MIT specialist publications like open|DOOR MIT magazine on bioengineering and beyond. Z.L.’s research has indicated that:

[i]t is only a matter of time… before technology is integrated within the body. Anticipating the revolution, he has already taught himself how to do surgical implants and other operations. “The state uses technology to strengthen its control over us,” he says. “By opposing this control, I remain a punk. When the first electronic tags are implanted in the bodies of criminals, maybe in the next five years, I’ll know how to remove them, deactivate them and spread viruses to roll over Big Brother” [25].

5.3 Health Risks

Public concern about electromagnetic fields from cellular phones was a contentious issue in the late 1990s. Now it seems that the majority of people in More Developing Countries (MDCs) have become so dependent on mobile phones that they are disregarding the potential health risks associated with the technology [[lxvi]]. Though very little has been proven concretely, most terminal manufacturers do include a warning with their packaging, encouraging users not to touch the antenna of the phone during transmission [[lxvii]]. Covacio [11] is among the few authors to discuss the potential technological problems associated with microchips for human ID from a health perspective. In his paper he provides evidence why implants may impact humans adversely, categorizing these into thermal (i.e. whole/partial rise in body heating), stimulation (i.e. excitation of nerves and muscles) and other effects most of which are currently unknown. He states that research into RFID and mobile telephone technology [11]:

...has revealed a growing concern with the effects of radio frequency and non-ionizing radiation on organic matter. It has been revealed a number of low-level, and possible high-level risks are associated with the use of radio-frequency technology. Effects of X-rays and gamma rays have been well documented in medical and electronic journals…

In considering future wearable devices, Salonen [[lxviii]] puts forward the idea of directing antenna away from the head where “there may be either a thermal insult produced by power deposition in tissue (acute effects) or other (long-term) effects” to midway between the shoulder and elbow where radiation can be pushed outward from the body. Yet chip implants may also pose problems, particularly if they are active implants that contain batteries and are prone to leakage if transponders are accidentally broken. Geers et al. [[lxix]] write the following regarding animal implants.

Another important aspect is the potential toxic effect of the battery when using active transponders. Although it should be clear that pieces of glass or copper from passive tags are not allowed to enter the food chain. When using electronic monitoring with the current available technology, a battery is necessary to guarantee correct functioning of sensors when the transponder is outside the antenna field. If the transponder should break in the animal’s body, battery fluid may escape, and the question of toxological effects has to be answered.

In fact, we need only consider the very real problems that women with failed silicon breast implants have had to suffer. Will individuals with chip implants, twenty years down the track, be tied up in similar court battles and with severe medical problems? Surgical implantation, it must also be stated, causes some degree of stress in an animal and it takes between four to seven days for the animal to return to equilibrium [69]. Most certainly some discomfort must be felt by humans as well. In the Cyborg 1.0 project, Warwick was advised to leave the implant under his skin for only ten days. According to Trull [[lxx]], Warwick was taking antibiotics to fight the possibility of infection. Warwick also reportedly told his son while playing squash during Cyborg 1.0: “Whatever you do, don’t hit my arm. The implant could just shatter, and you’ll have ruined your father’s arm for life” [[lxxi]]. It is also worthwhile noting Warwick’s appearance after the Cyborg 2.0 experiment. He looked pale and weary in press release photographs, like someone who had undergone a major operation. Covacio [11] believes ultimately that widespread implantation of microchips in humans will lead to detrimental effects to them and the environment at large. Satellite technology (i.e. the use of GPS to locate individuals), microwave RF and related technological gadgetry will ultimately “increase health problems and consequentially increase pressure on health services already under economic duress.”

6. Cultural Issues

6.1 The Net Generation

When the ENIAC was first made known to the public in February of 1946 reporters used “anthropomorphic” and “awesome characterizations” to describe the computer. The news was received with skepticism by citizens who feared the unknown. In an article titled “The Myth of the Awesome Thinking Machine”, Martin [[lxxii]] stated that the ENIAC was referred to in headlines as “a child, a Frankenstein, a whiz kid, a predictor and controller of weather, and a wizard”. Photographs of the ENIAC used in publications usually depicted the computer to completely fill a small room, from wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling. People are usually shown interacting with the machine, feeding it with instructions, waiting for results and monitoring its behavior. One could almost imagine that the persons in the photographs are ‘inside the body’ of the ENIAC [[lxxiii]]. Sweeping changes have taken place since that time, particularly since the mid 1980s. Consumers now own personal computers (PCs) in their homes- these are increasingly being networked- they carry laptop computers and mobile phones and chip cards, and closely interact with public automated kiosks. Relatively speaking, it has not taken long for people to adapt to the changes that this new technology has heralded. Today we speak of a Net Generation (N-Geners) who never knew a world without computers or the Internet [[lxxiv]]; for them the digital world is as ubiquitous as the air that they breathe. What is important to N-Geners is not how they got to where they are today but what digital prospects the future holds.

“[O]ur increasing cultural acceptance of high-tech gadgetry has led to a new way of thinking: robotic implants could be so advantageous that people might actually want to become cybernetic organisms, by choice. The popularization of the cyberpunk genre has demonstrated that it can be hip to have a chip in your head” [70].

6.2 Science Fiction Genre

The predictions of science fiction writers have often been promoted through the use of print, sound and visual mediums. Below is a list of sci-fi novels, films and television series that undoubtedly have influenced and are still influencing the trajectory of auto-ID. Chris Hables Gray tells his students “…that a lot of the best cyborgology has been done in the mass media and in fiction by science fiction writers, and science fiction movie producers, because they’re thinking through these things” [[lxxv]]. The popular 1970s series of Six Million Dollar Man, for instance, began as follows: “We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to make the world’s first Bionic man.” Today bionic limbs are a reality and no longer science fiction [[lxxvi]]. More recently AT&T’s Wireless mMode magazine alluded to Start Trek [[lxxvii]]:

They also talked about their expectations- one media executive summed it up best, saying, “Remember that little box that Mr. Spock had on Star Trek? The one that did everything? That’s what I’d like my phone to be…”

Beyond auto-ID we find a continuing legacy in sci-fi genre toward the electrification of humans- from Frankenstein to Davros in Dr Who, and from Total Recall to Johnny Mnemonic (see exhibit 1.2). While all this is indeed ‘merely’ sci-fi, it is giving some form to the word, allowing the imagination to be captured in powerful images, sounds and models. What next? A vision of a mechanized misery [[lxxviii]] as portrayed in Fritz Lang’s 1927 cult film classic Metropolis? Only this time instead of being at the mercy of the Machine, we have gone one step further and invited the Machine to reside inside the body, and marked it as a ‘technological breakthrough’ as well. As several commentators have noted, “[w]e live in an era that… itself often seems like science fiction, and Metropolis has contributed powerfully to that seeming” [[lxxix]].

Exhibit 1.2 &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Sci-Fi Film Genre Pointing to the Electrification of Humans

Exhibit 1.2     Sci-Fi Film Genre Pointing to the Electrification of Humans

Some of the more notable predictions and social critiques are contained within the following novels: Frankenstein (Shelley 1818), Paris in the 20th Century (Verne 1863), Looking Backward (Bellamy 1888), The Time Machine (Wells 1895), R.U.R. (Kapek 1917), Brave New World (Huxley 1932), 1984 (Orwell 1949), I, Robot (Asimov 1950), Foundation (Asimov 1951-53, 1982), 2001: A Space Odyssey (Clarke 1968), Blade Runner (Dick 1968), Neuromancer (Gibson 1984), The Marked Man (Ingrid 1989), The Silicon Man (Platt 1991), Silicon Karma (Easton 1997). The effects of film have been even more substantial on the individual as they have put some form to the predictions. These include: Metropolis (Fritz Lang 1927), Forbidden Planet (Fred Wilcox 1956), Fail Safe (Sidney Lumet 1964), THX-1138 (George Lucas 1971), 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick 1968), The Terminal Man (George Lucas 1974), Zardoz (John Boorman 1974), Star Wars (George Lucas 1977), Moonraker (Lewis Gilbert II 1979), Star Trek (Robert Wise 1979), For Your Eyes Only (John Glen II 1981), Blade Runner (Ridley Scott 1982), War Games (John Badham 1983), 2010: The Year We Make Contact (Peter Hyams 1984), RoboCop (Paul Verhoeven, 1987), Total Recall (Paul Verhoeven 1990), The Terminator Series, Sneakers (Phil Alden Robinson 1992), Patriot Games (Phillip Noyce 1992), The Lawnmower Man (Brett Leonard 1992), Demolition Man (Marco Brambilla 1993), Jurassic Park (Steven Speilberg 1993), Hackers (Iain Softley 1995), Johnny Mnemonic (Robert Longo 1995), The NET (Irwin Winkler 1995) [[lxxx]], Gattaca (Andrew Niccol 1997) Enemy of the State (Tony Scott 1998), Fortress 2 (Geoff Murphy 1999), The Matrix (L. Wachowski & A. Wachowski 1999), Mission Impossible 2 (John Woo 2000), The 6th Day (Roger Spottiswoode 2000). Other notable television series include: Dr Who, Lost in Space, Dick Tracy, The Jetsons, Star Trek, Batman, Get Smart, Six Million Dollar Man, Andromeda, Babylon 5, Gasaraki, Stargate SG-1, Neon Genesis Evangelion, FarScape, and X-Files.  

6.3 Shifting Cultural Values

Auto-ID and more generally computer and network systems have influenced changes in language, art [[lxxxi]], music and film. An article by Branwyn [[lxxxii]] summarizes these changes well.

Language [[lxxxiii]]: “Computer network and hacker slang is filled with references to “being wired” or “jacking in” (to a computer network), “wetware” (the brain), and “meat” the body”.
Music: “Recent albums by digital artists Brian Eno, Clock DVA, and Frontline Assembly sport names like Nerve Net, Man Amplified and Tactical Neural Implant.” See also the 1978 album by Kraftwerk titled “The Man Machine”.
Film: “Science fiction films, from Robocop to the recent Japanese cult film Tetsuo: The Iron Man, imprint our imaginations with images of the new.”

Apart from the plethora of new terms that have been born from the widespread use of IT&T and more specifically from extropians (much of which have religious connotations or allusions [[lxxxiv]]), it is art, especially body art that is being heavily influenced by chip implant technology. Mieszkowski [49] believes that “chipification” will be the next big wave in place of tattoos, piercing and scarification (see exhibit 1.3). In the U.S. it was estimated in 2001 that about two hundred Americans had permanently changed their bodies at around nine hundred dollars per implant, following a method developed by Steve Hayworth and Jon Cobb [25].

Exhibit 1.3 &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;The New Fashion: Bar Code Tattoos, Piercing &amp; Chips

Exhibit 1.3     The New Fashion: Bar Code Tattoos, Piercing & Chips

Canadian artist Nancy Nisbet has implanted microchips in her hands to better understand how implant technology may affect the human identity. The artist told Scheeres [[lxxxv]], “I am expecting the merger between human and machines to proceed whether we want it to or not…” As far back as 1997, Eduardo Kac “inserted a chip into his ankle during a live performance in Sao Paulo, then registered himself in an online pet database as both owner and animal” [86]. Perhaps the actual implant ceremony was not Kac’s main contribution but the subsequent registration onto a pet database. Other artists like Natasha Vita More and Stelarc have ventured beyond localized chip implants. Their vision is of a complete prosthetic body that will comprise of nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, robotics, cloning, and even nanobots [75]. More calls her future body design Primo 3M Plus. Stelarc’s live performances however, have been heralded as the closest thing there is to imagining a world where the human body will become obsolete [[lxxxvi]].

A Stelarc performance… usually involves a disturbing mix of amplified sounds of human organs and techno beats, an internal camera projecting images of his innards, perhaps a set of robotic legs or an extra arm, or maybe tubes and wires connecting the performer’s body to the internet with people in another country manipulating the sensors, jerking him into a spastic dance. It’s a dark vision, but it definitely makes you think [75].

Warwick [[lxxxvii]] believes that the new technologies “will dramatically change [art], but not destroy it.”

6.4 Medical Marvels or Human Evolution

As Sacleman wrote in 1967 “...the impact of automation on the individual involve[d] a reconstruction of his values, his outlook and his way of life” [[lxxxviii]]. Marshall McLuhan [[lxxxix], [xc]] was one of the first explorers to probe how the psycho-social complex was influenced by electricity. “Electricity continually transforms everything, especially the way people think, and confirms the power of uncertainty in the quest for absolute knowledge.” [[xci]]. Numerous examples can be given to illustrate these major cultural changes- from the use of electricity for household warmth, to wide area networks (WAN) enabling voice and data communications across long distances, to magnetic-stripe cards used for credit transactions [[xcii], [xciii], [xciv], [xcv]]. But what of the direct unification of humans and technology, i.e., the fusion between flesh and electronic circuitry [[xcvi], [xcvii], [xcviii]]? Consider for a moment the impact that chip implants have had on the estimated 23,000 cochlear recipients in the US. A medical marvel perhaps but it too, not without controversy. There are potentially 500,000 hearing impaired persons that could benefit from cochlear implants [[xcix]] but not every deaf person wants one.

Some deaf activists… are critical of parents who subject children to such surgery [cochlear implants] because, as one charged, the prosthesis imparts “the nonhealthy self-concept of having had something wrong with one’s body” rather than the “healthy self-concept of [being] a proud Deaf” [[c]].

Assistant Professor Scott Bally of Audiology at Gallaudet University has said: “Many deaf people feel as though deafness is not a handicap. They are culturally deaf individuals who have successfully adapted themselves to being deaf and feel as though things like cochlear implants would take them out of their deaf culture, a culture which provides a significant degree of support” [82].

Putting this delicate debate aside it is here that some delineation can be made between implants that are used to treat an ailment or disability (i.e. giving sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf), and implants that may be used for enhancing human function (i.e. memory). Some citizens are concerned about the direction of the human species as future predictions of fully functional neural implants are being made by credible scientists. “[Q]uestions are raised as to how society as a whole will relate to people walking around with plugs and wires sprouting out of their heads. And who will decide which segments of the society become the wire-heads” [82]? Those who can afford the procedures perhaps? And what of the possibility of brain viruses that could be fatal and technological obsolescence that may require people to undergo frequent operations? Maybury [[ci]] believes that humans are already beginning to suffer from a type of “mental atrophy” worse than that that occurred during the industrial revolution and that the only way to fight it is to hang on to those essential skills that are required for human survival. The question remains whether indeed it is society that shapes technology [[cii]] or technology that shapes society [[ciii]]. Inevitably it is a dynamic process of push and pull that causes cultural transformations over time.

7 Religious Issues

7.1 The Mark of the Beast

Ever since the bar code symbology UPC (Universal Product Code) became widespread some Christian groups have linked auto-ID to the “mark” in the Book of Revelation (13:18): “the number of the beast… is 666” [[civ], [cv], [cvi]]. Coincidentally, the left (101), centre (01010) and right (101) border codes of the UPC bars are encoded 6, 6, 6 (see exhibit 1.4). As it is now an established standard for every non-perishable item to be bar coded there was a close association with the prophecy: “so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark” (Rev 13:17). In full, verses 16-18 of chapter 13 of Revelation read as follows:

He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666. [[cvii]]

According to some Christians, this reference would appear to be alluding to a mark on or in the human body, the prediction being made that the UPC would eventually end up on or under human skin [[cviii]]. As the selection environment of auto-ID devices grew, the interpretation of the prophecy further developed as to the actual guise of the mark. It was no longer interpreted to be ‘just’ the bar code (see exhibit 1.4). Some of the more prominent religious web sites that discuss auto-ID and the number of the beast include: http://www.666soon.com (2003), http://www.greaterthings.com (2003), http://www.countdown.com.org (2003), http://www.raidersnewsupdate.com (2003), http://www.light1998.com (2003) and http://www.av1611.org (1996). At first the sites focused on bar code technology, now they have grown to encompass a plethora of auto-ID technologies, especially biometrics and looming chip implants. For a thorough analysis of the background, sources and interpretation of the “number of the beast” see M.G. Michael’s thesis [[cix]].

Card technology such as magnetic-stripe and smart cards became the next focus as devices that would gradually pave the way for a permanent ID for all citizens globally: “He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark…” (Rev 13:16). Biometrics was then introduced and immediately the association was made that the “mark” [charagma] would appear on the “right hand” (i.e. palmprint or fingerprint) or on the “forehead” (facial/ iris recognition) as was supposedly prophesied (Rev. 13:16). For the uses of charagma in early Christian literature see Arndt and Gingrich [[cx]]. Short of calling this group of people fundamentalists, as Woodward [15] refers to one prominent leader, Davies is more circumspect [[cxi]]:

“I think they’re legitimate [claims]. People have always rejected certain information practices for a variety of reasons: personal, cultural, ethical, religious and legal. And I think it has to be said that if a person feels bad for whatever reason, about the use of a body part then that’s entirely legitimate and has to be respected”.

Finally RF/ID transponders made their way into pets and livestock for identification, and that is when some Christian groups announced that the ‘authentic’ mark was now possible, and that it was only a matter of time before it would find its way into citizen applications [[cxii]]. Terry Cook [[cxiii]], for instance, an outspoken religious commentator and popular author, “worries the identification chip could be the ‘mark of the beast’, an identifying mark that all people will be forced to wear just before the end times, according to the Bible” [[cxiv]]. The description of an implant procedure for sows that Geers et al. [69] gives, especially the section about an incision being made on the skin, is what some religious advocates fear may happen to humans as well in the future.

When the thermistor was implanted the sows were restrained with a lasso. The implantation site was locally anaesthetized with a procaine (2%) injection, shaved and disinfected. After making a small incision in the skin, the thermistor was implanted subcutaneously, and the incision was closed by sewing. The position of the thermistor (accuracy 0.1C) was wire-connected to a data acquisition system linked to a personal computer.

“Religious advocates say it [i.e. transponder implants] represents ‘the mark of the Beast’, or the anti-Christ” [[cxv]]. Christians who take this mark, for whatever reason, are said to be denouncing the seal of baptism, and accepting the Antichrist in place of Christ [[cxvi], [cxvii], [cxviii]]. Horn [[cxix]] explains:

[m]any Christians believe that, before long, an antichrist system will appear. It will be a New World Order, under which national boundaries dissolve, and ethnic groups, ideologies, religions, and economics from around the world, orchestrate a single and dominant sovereignty… According to popular Biblical interpretation, a single personality will surface at the head of the utopian administration… With imperious decree the Antichrist will facilitate a one-world government, universal religion, and globally monitored socialism. Those who refuse his New World Order will inevitably be imprisoned or destroyed.

References discussing the New World Order include Barnet and Cavanagh [[cxx]], Wilshire [[cxxi]], and Smith [[cxxii]].

Exhibit 1.4 &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;The Mark of the Beast as Shown on GreaterThings.com

Exhibit 1.4     The Mark of the Beast as Shown on GreaterThings.com

Companies that specialize in the manufacture of chip implant solutions, whether for animals or for humans, have been targeted by some religious advocates. The bad publicity has not been welcomed by these companies- some have even notably “toned down” the graphic visuals on their web sites so that they do not attract the wrong ‘type’ of web surfers. While they are trying to promote an image of safety and security, some advocates have associated company brands and products with apocalyptic labels. Some of the company and product names include: Biomark, BioWare, BRANDERS, MARC, Soul Catcher, Digital Angel and Therion Corporation. Perhaps the interesting thing to note is that religious advocates and civil libertarians agree that ultimately the chip implant technology will be used by governments to control citizens. ADSX is one of the companies that have publicly stated that they do not want adverse publicity after pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into research and development and the multi-million dollar purchase of the Destron Fearing company. So concerned were they that they even appeared on the Christian talk show The 700 Club, emphasizing that the device would create a lot of benefits and was not meant to fulfill prophecy [60]. A spokesperson for ADSX said: “[w]e don’t want the adverse publicity. There are a number of privacy concerns and religious implications- fundamentalist Christian groups regard [i.e., implanting computer chips] as the Devil’s work” [51].  According to Gary Wohlscheid, the president of The Last Day Ministries, the VeriChip could well be the mark.  Wohlscheid believes that out of all the auto-ID technologies with the potential to be the mark, the VeriChip is the closest. About the VeriChip he says however, “[i]t’s definitely not the final product, but it’s a step toward it. Within three to four years, people will be required to use it. Those that reject it will be put to death” [56]. These are, of course, the positions of those who have entered the debate from the so-called fundamentalist literalist perspective and represent the more vocal and visible spectrum of contemporary “apocalyptic” Christianity. In this context the idea of fundamentalism seems to be a common label today, for anyone within the Christian community who questions the trajectory of technological advancement.

With respect to the potential of brain chips in the perceived quest for “immortality” [13, 14], many Christians across the denominational confession see this as an attempt to usurp the Eternal Life promised by God, in Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit. This is similar to the case of human cloning, where specialist geneticists are accused of trying to play God by usurping the Creator’s role. However, the area is notoriously grey here; when for instance, do implants for medical breakthroughs become acceptable versus those required for purposes of clear identification? In the future the technology in question could end up merging the two functions onto the single device. This is a real and very possible outcome, when all factors, both market and ethical, are taken on board by the relevant stakeholders. Ultimately, for most members of a believing religious community, this subject revolves around the most important question of individual freedom and the right to choose [[cxxiii], [cxxiv]].

8. Ethical Issues

In an attempt to make our world a safer place we have inadvertently infringed on our privacy and our freedom through the use of surveillance cameras and all other ancillary. We equip our children with mobile phones, attach tracking devices to them or make them carry them [[cxxv]] in their bags and soon we might even be implanting them with microchips [[cxxvi]]. This all comes at a price- yet it seems more and more people are willing to pay this price as heinous crimes become common events in a society that should know better. Take the example of 11-year old Danielle Duval who is about to have an active chip (i.e. containing a rechargeable battery) implanted in her. Her mother believes that it is no different to tracking a stolen car, simply that it is being used for another more important application. Mrs Duvall is considering implanting her younger daughter age 7 as well but will wait until the child is a bit older: “so that she fully understands what’s happening” [[cxxvii]]. One could be excused for asking whether Danielle at the age of 11 actually can fully comprehend the implications of the procedure she is about to undergo. It seems that the age of consent would be a more appropriate age.

Warwick has said that an urgent debate is required on this matter (i.e. whether every child should be implanted by law), and whether or not signals from the chips should be emitted on a 24x7 basis or just triggered during emergencies. Warwick holds the position that “we cannot prejudge ethics” [87]. He believes that ethics can only be debated and conclusions reached only after people become aware of the technical possibilities when they have been demonstrated. He admits that ethics may differ between countries and cultures [[cxxviii]]. The main ethical problem related to chip implants seems to be that they are under the skin [70] and cannot just be removed by the user at their convenience. In fact there is nothing to stop anyone from getting multiple implants all over their body rendering some applications useless. Tien of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is convinced that if a technology is there to be abused, whether it is chip implants or national ID cards, then it will because that is just human nature [[cxxix]]. Similarly, Kidscape, a charity that is aimed at reducing the incidence of sexual abuse in children believe that implants will not act to curb crime. Kidscape hold the position that rather than giving children a false sense of security because they are implanted with a tracking device that could be tampered with by an offender, they should be educated on the possible dangers. Implanted tracking devices may sound entirely full-proof but deployment of emergency personnel, whether police or ambulance, cannot just magically appear at the scene of a crime in time to stop an offender from committing violence against a hostage.

8.1 The Prospect of International ID Implants

There are numerous arguments for why implanting a chip in a person is outright unconstitutional. But perhaps the under-explored area as Gellman puts it are the legal and social issues of who would have power over the chip and the information gathered by its means [49]. Gellman is correct in his summation of the problem but science has a proven way of going into uncharted territory first, then asking the questions about implications later. ADSX, for instance, have already launched the VeriChip solution. Sullivan, a spokesperson for the company told Salkowski [50]:

“I’m certainly not a believer in the abuse of power,” he offered, suggesting that Congress could always ban export of his company’s device. Of course, he admits he wouldn’t exactly lobby for that law. “I’m a businessman,” he said.

Black [53] makes the observation that the US government might well indeed place constraints on international sales of the VeriChip if it felt it could be used against them by an enemy. Consider the governance issues surrounding GPS technology that has been in operation a lot longer than human RFID implants.

“Good, neutral, or perhaps undesirable outcomes are now possible… Tension arises between some of the civil/commercial applications and the desire to preclude an adversary’s use of GPS. It is extremely difficult (technically, institutionally, politically, and economically) to combine the nonmilitary benefits of the system that require universality of access, ease of use, and low cost with military requirements for denial of the system to adversaries. Practical considerations require civil/commercial applications to have relatively easy access” [[cxxx]].

From a different angle, Rummler [[cxxxi]] points out that the monitoring and tracking of individuals raises serious legal implications regarding the individual’s capacity to maintain their right to freedom. He wrote: “[o]nce implanted with bio-implant electronic devices, humans might become highly dependent on the creators of these devices for their repair, recharge, and maintenance. It could be possible to modify the person technologically… thus placing them under the absolute control of the designers of the technology.” The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Dr. David Feigal has been vocal about the need for such devices as the VeriChip not to take medical applications lightly and that companies wishing to specialize in health-related implants need to be in close consultation with the FDA [[cxxxii], [cxxxiii]]. There is also the possibility that such developments, i.e. regulating chip implants, may ultimately be used against an individual. The Freedom of Information Act for instance, already allows U.S. authorities to access automatic vehicle toll-passes to provide evidence in court [2]; there is nothing to suggest this will not happen with RFID transponder implants as well, despite the myriad of promises made by ADSX.  Professor Gray is adamant that there is no stopping technological evolution no matter how sinister some technologies may appear, and that we need to become accustomed to the fact that new technologies will continually infringe upon the constitution [49].

8.2 Beyond Chip Implants

Luggables, like mobile phones, do create a sense of attachment between the user and the device but the devices are still physically separate; they can accidentally be left behind. Wearable computers on the other hand are a part of the user, they are worn, and they “create an intimate human-computer-symbiosis in which respective strengths combine” [[cxxxiv]]. Mann calls this human-computer-symbiosis, “human interaction” (HI) as opposed to HCI (human-computer interaction).

[W]e prefer not to think of the wearer and the computer with its associated I/O apparatus as separate entities. Instead, we regard the computer as a second brain and its sensory modalities as additional senses, which synthetic synesthesia merges with the wearer’s senses. [[cxxxv]]
Exhibit 1.5 &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;The Process of Transformation

Exhibit 1.5     The Process of Transformation

Human-computer electrification is set to make this bond irrevocable (see exhibit 1.5). Once on that path there is no turning back. If at the present all this seems impossible, a myth, unlikely, a prediction far gone, due to end-user resistance and other similar obstacles facing the industry today, history should teach us otherwise. This year alone, millions of babies will be born into a world where there are companies on the New York Stock Exchange specializing in chip implant devices for humans. “They” will grow up believing that these technologies are not only “normal” but also quite useful, just   like   other   high-tech technologies before them such as the Internet, PCs, smart cards etc. Consider the case of Cynthia Tam, aged two, who is an avid computer user:

“[i]t took a couple of days for her to understand the connection between the mouse in her hand and the cursor on the screen and then she was off… The biggest problem for Cynthia’s parents is how to get her to stop… for Cynthia, the computer is already a part of her environment… Cynthia’s generation will not think twice about buying things on the Internet, just like most people today don’t think twice when paying credit card, or using cash points for withdrawals and deposits” [[cxxxvi]].

But you do not have to be a newborn baby to adapt to technological change. Even grandmothers and grandfathers surf the web these days and send emails as a cheaper alternative to post or telephone [74]. And migrants struggling with a foreign language will even memorize key combinations to withdraw money even if they do not actually fully perceive the actions they are commanding throughout the process. Schiele [[cxxxvii]] believes that our personal habits are shaped by technological change and that over time new technologies that seem only appropriate for technophiles eventually find themselves being used by the average person. “[O]ver time our culture will adjust to incorporate the devices.” Gotterbarn is in agreement [10].

We enthusiastically adopt the latest gadget for one use, but then we start to realize that it gives us power for another use. Then there is the inevitable realization that we have overlooked the way it impacts other people, giving rise to professional and ethical issues.

What is apparent regardless of how far electrophoresis is taken is that the once irreconcilable gap between human and machine is closing (see exhibit 1.6).

Beyond chip implants for tracking there are the possibilities associated with neural prosthetics and the potential to directly link computers to humans [[cxxxviii]]. Warwick is also well aware that one of the major obstacles of cyber-humans are the associated moral issues [[cxxxix], [cxl]]- who gives anyone the right to be conducting complex procedures on a perfectly healthy person, and who will take responsibility for any complications that present themselves? Rummler [131] asks whether it is ethical to be linking computers to humans in the first place and whether or not limitations should be placed on what procedures can be conducted even if they are possible. For instance, could this be considered a violation of human rights? And more to the point what will it mean in the future to call oneself “human”. McGrath [[cxli]] asks “how human”?

As technology fills you up with synthetic parts, at what point do you cease to be fully human? One quarter? One third?... At bottom lies one critical issue for a technological age: are some kinds of knowledge so terrible they simply should not be pursued? If there can be such a thing as a philosophical crisis, this will be it. These questions, says Rushworth Kidder, president of the Institute for Global Ethics in Camden, Maine, are especially vexing because they lie at “the convergence of three domains- technology, politics and ethics- that are so far hardly on speaking terms.

At the point of becoming an electrophorus (i.e. a bearer of electricity), “[y]ou are not just a human linked with technology; you are something different and your values and judgment will change” [[cxlii]]. Some suspect that it will even become possible to alter behavior in people with brain implants [51], whether they will it or not. Maybury [101] believes that “[t]he advent of machine intelligence raises social and ethical issues that may ultimately challenge human existence on earth.”

 

Exhibit 1.6 &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Marketing Campaigns that Point to the Electrophorus

Exhibit 1.6     Marketing Campaigns that Point to the Electrophorus

Gotterbarn [10] argues precisely that our view of computer technologies generally progresses through several stages:

1) naïve innocence and technological wonder, 2) power and control, and 3) finally, sometimes because of disasters during the second stage, an understanding of the essential relationship between technologies and values.

Bill Joy, the chief technologist of Sun Microsystems, feels a sense of unease about such predictions made by Ray Kurzweil in The Age of Spiritual Machines [138]. Not only because Kurzweil has proven technically competent in the past but because of his ultimate vision for humanity- “a near immortality by becoming one with robotic technology” [[cxliii]]. Joy was severely criticized for being narrow-sighted, even a fundamentalist of sorts, after publishing his paper in Wired, but all he did was dare to ask the questions- ‘do we know what we are doing? Has anyone really carefully thought about this?’ Joy believes [143]:

[w]e are being propelled into this new century with no plan, no control, no brakes. Have we already gone too far down the path to alter course? I don’t believe so, but we aren’t trying yet, and the last chance to assert control- the fail-safe point- is rapidly approaching.

Surely there is a pressing need for ethical dialogue [[cxliv]] on auto-ID innovation and more generally IT&T. If there has ever been a time when engineers have had to act socially responsibly [[cxlv]], it is now as we are at defining crossroads.

The new era of biomedical and genetic research merges the worlds of engineering, computer and information technology with traditional medical research. Some of the most significant and far-reaching discoveries are being made at the interface of these disciplines. [[cxlvi]]

9. Conclusion

The principal objective of this paper was to encourage critical discussion on the exigent topic of human implants in e-business applications by documenting the central social, cultural, religious and ethical issues. The evidence provided indicates that technology-push has been the driving force behind many of the new RFID transponder implant applications instead of market-pull. What is most alarming is the rate of change in technological capabilities without the commensurate response from an informed community involvement or ethical discourse on what these changes actually “mean”, not only for the present but also for the future. It seems that the normal standard now is to introduce a technology, stand back to see its general effects on society, and then act to rectify problems as they might arise. The concluding point of this paper is that the long-term side effects of a technology should be considered at the outset and not after the event. One need only bring to mind the Atomic Bomb and the Chernobyl disaster for what is possible, if not inevitable once a technology is set on its ultimate trajectory [103]. As citizens it is our duty to remain knowledgeable about scientific developments and to discuss the possible ethical implications again and again [10]. In the end we can point the finger at the Mad Scientists [75] but we too must be socially responsible, save we become our own worst enemy [[cxlvii]]. It is certainly a case of caveat emptor, let the buyer beware.

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Biographical Note

Dr Katina Michael is a lecturer in Information Technology at the University of Wollongong in Australia. In 1996 she completed her Bachelor of Information Technology degree with a co-operative scholarship from the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) and in 2003 she was awarded her Doctor of Philosophy with the thesis “The Auto-ID Trajectory” from the University of Wollongong. She has an industrial background in telecommunications and has held positions as a systems analyst with United Technologies and Andersen Consulting. Most of her work experience was acquired as a senior network and business planner with Nortel Networks (1996-2001). In this capacity she consulted for Asia’s largest telecommunication operators and service providers. Katina now teaches and researches in eBusiness and her main academic interests are in the areas of automatic identification devices, third generation wireless applications, geographic information systems, and technology forecasting.

Dr M.G. Michael is a church historian and New Testament scholar. He has spoken at numerous international conferences and has written two highly regarded dissertations on the Book of Revelation. His specialist interests are in apocalypticism, millennial studies, and Orthodox mysticism. He has completed a Doctor of Philosophy at the Australian Catholic University, a Master of Arts (Honours) at Macquarie University, a Master of Theology and Bachelor of Arts at Sydney University and a Bachelor of Theology at the Sydney College of Divinity.