Do Microchip Possess Threats to Our Privacy and Data Security?
Wed, 27 Feb 2019 || By Janitra Haryanto

Thousands of microchips have been implanted throughout the United Kingdom (UK) and Sweden. BioTeq, a UK firm which offered implants to businesses and individuals has claimed to have implanted 150 units of microchip[1]. This policy is due to the fact that according to its founder most of UK companies desired microchip implant to hand their employee cardless access to several chapters in their companies, starting their cars, and medical information[2]. In Sweden, Jowan Österlund’s Biohax has claimed to have implanted over 4000 microchips and worked with state-owned Statens Järnvägar to enable its passenger to travel with the microchip rather than train ticket[3]. Biohax has also bid to penetrate UK microchip markets by planning to establish an office in London.

With the emergence of microchip businesses in those two European countries, it is very likely that the spread of microchip use will also rise in another part of the world. BioTeq has stated that they have even shipped their units abroad to countries such as Spain, France, Germany, Japan and China[4]. This advancement shows that, at the very least, companies and individuals are appeared to be interested with the futuristic function of microchip which enables better ease of access than the current popular devices such as smartphones and cards. However, it remains imperative to understand the risk of implanting a microchip into the human body.

The original idea of implanting a Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) device/microchip into one’s body was to enhance individual accessibility towards electronic devices. When British scientist Professor Kevin Warwick, the man who succeeded the first microchip implant, was able to implant a computer chip within his body in 1998, he made use of the chip to unlock the front door of his office, turned on his office light and activate a computerized voice phrases when he passed his front doors[5]. In about one decade after Professor Warwick's finding, RFID devices have been highly developed. In 2009, British scientist Mark Gasson had RFID devices implanted in his left hand. Despite positioning himself as RFID proponent, his research has shown that implanted RFID devices can be infected by computer virus[6].

A microchip implant is said to possess its own risk towards the safety and privacy of an individual. Within the context of companies and workers relations, for instance, microchip implant has been observed as a course to enhance the power of the company executives towards their worker. Thus, microchip implant towards workers carries a substantial possibility of vertical power abuse from company executives to workers. UK’s Confederation of British Industries (CBI) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) has also voiced their concern that such technology could result in the violation of the worker's privacy[7].

Recent findings in the last decade have shown that microchip implant has been developed massively. This development also raises concern about the security of the microchip. Some might ask questions that refer to the security and limitation of the devices. The growing concern of individuals about their privacy and data security has caused by numerous cybercrimes done through everyday smart devices.

Many argue that the current microchip cannot track an individual's location and hampers their privacy[8]. The current popular abilities possessed by microchips are limited to opening doors, unlocking the car, and operating smartphone features[9]. Furthermore, some have also argued that the current microchip technology does not possess threat for the society because of the current inadequate capabilities, such as limited information contained on the microchip tag, microchip's inability to be traced by satellite, and the high cost of the microchip tag[10].

However, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argued that although the current technology has been claimed to be safe, it still has the possibility of threatening the privacy and security of individuals. For instance, on the claim about the limited information contained on the microchip tag, ACLU argued that, although microchip tag will only contain serial number, such number can be used as a reference number that corresponds to information contained on some Internet-connected database[11]. Referring to current technology, it means that the serial number contained on the microchip tag may correspond to information contained on the cloud database.

Next, regarding the claim about microchip’s inability to be traced by satellite, although the microchip is claimed to be a passive device (unable to connect itself with internet), ACLU argued it is entirely possible that the ambient reader devices can download the information contained in the microchip and transmit its location to internet[12]. Again, referring to today's interconnectedness of devices, such a scenario can quickly happen.

Finally, the use of a microchip device can be understood as both assistance to everyday life and threat to privacy. It has shown its potential to provide shortcuts to access everyday digital devices while at the same time, possesses its risks of data breaching, unauthorised surveillance and data misuse. Therefore, when the use of microchip has become widespread in the near future, governments should be ready to prevent such danger by establishing a firm regulation.

Editor: Anisa Pratita Mantovani

Read another article written by Janitra Haryanto

 

[1] Kollewe, J. (2019). Alarm over talks to implant UK employees with microchips. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/nov/11/alarm-over-talks-to-implant-uk-employees-with-microchips [Accessed 7 Feb. 2019].

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Witt, S. (1998). Is human chip implant wave of the future?. [online] the Guardian. Available at: http://edition.cnn.com/TECH/computing/9901/14/chipman.idg/ [Accessed 7 Feb. 2019].

[6] Gasson, M. (2010). Human Enhancement: Could you become infected with a computer virus?. 2010 IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society, pp.61-68.

[7] Ibid.

[8]. Anugerah, D. (2016). Manusia Masa Depan dan Microchip. [online] Tirto. Available at: https://tirto.id/manusia-masa-depan-dan-microchip-bKU7 [Accessed 7 Feb. 2019].

[9] Firfiray, S. (2018). Microchip implants are threatening workers’ rights. [online] The Conversation. Available at: http://theconversation.com/microchip-implants-are-threatening-workers-rights-107221 [Accessed 7 Feb. 2019].

[10] ACLU. (2013). RFID Position Paper. [online] ACLU. Available at: https://www.aclu.org/other/rfid-position-statement [Accessed 9 Feb 2019].

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.