A human microchip implant
is an integrated circuit device or RFID transponder encased in silicate glass and implanted in the body of a human being. A subdermal implant
A subdermal implant refers to a kind of body jewelry that is placed underneath the skin, therefore allowing the body to heal over the implant and creating a raised design. These kinds of implants fall under the broad category of body modification. Many people who have these implants use them in...
typically contains a unique ID number that can be linked to information contained in an external database, such as personal identification, medical history, medications, allergies, and contact information.
The first reported experiment with an RFID implant was carried out in 1998 by the British scientist Kevin Warwick
Kevin Warwick is a British scientist and professor of cybernetics at the University of Reading, Reading, Berkshire, United Kingdom...
. As a test, his implant was used to open doors, switch on lights, and cause verbal output within a building. The implant has since been held in the Science Museum (London)
The Science Museum is one of the three major museums on Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. It is part of the National Museum of Science and Industry. The museum is a major London tourist attraction....
Since that time, several additional hobbyists have placed RFID microchip implants into their hands or had them placed there by others.
Amal Graafstra, author of the book "RFID Toys", asked doctors to place implants in his hands. A cosmetic surgeon used a scalpel to place a microchip in his left hand, and his family doctor injected a chip into his right hand using a veterinary Avid injector kit. Graafstra uses the implants to open his home and car doors and to log on to his computer.
Mikey Sklar had a chip implanted into his left hand and filmed the procedure
. He has done a number of media and personal interviews about his experience of being microchipped.
Mark Krieger also was one of the first pioneers of RFID chip implantation. He has been interviewed on radio and TV and writes his own software to control and interface with his implant.
In 2002, the VeriChip Corporation
PositiveID develops and markets healthcare and information-management products through RFID-based diagnostic devices and identification technologies, and proprietary disease-management tools....
(known as the "Positive ID Corporation" since November 2009) received preliminary approval from the United States Food and Drug Administration
The Food and Drug Administration is an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, one of the United States federal executive departments...
(FDA) to market its device
VeriChip was the only Food and Drug Administration -approved human-implantable radio-frequency identification microchip. It was marketed by PositiveID, a subsidiary of Applied Digital Solutions, and it received United States FDA approval in 2004. Its manufacture and marketing were discontinued in...
in the U.S. within specific guidelines. The device received FDA approval in 2004, and was marketed under the name VeriChip or VeriMed. In 2007, it was revealed that nearly identical implants had caused cancer in hundreds of laboratory animals., a revelation that had a devastating impact on the company's stock price. Some time between May and July 2010, the Positive ID Corporation discontinued marketing the implantable human microchip.
Medical records use
The PositiveID Corporation (previously known as The VeriChip Corporation; Applied Digital Solutions, Inc.; and The Digital Angel Corporation) distributed the implantable chip known as the VeriChip or VeriMed until the product was discontinued in the second quarter of 2010. The company had suggested that the implant could be used to retrieve medical information in the event of an emergency, as follows: Each VeriChip implant contained a 16-digit ID number. This number was transmitted when a hand-held VeriChip scanner is passed within a few inches of the implant. Participating hospitals and emergency workers would enter this number into a secure page on the VeriChip Corporation's website to access medical information that the patient had previously stored on file with the company.
According to some reports, in 2006 80 hospitals had agreed to own a VeriChip scanner provided by the company and 232 doctors had agreed to inject the devices into patients who requested them. However, the VeriChip Corporation/Applied Digital Solutions was sued by its shareholders for making "materially false and misleading statements" regarding hospital acceptance figures. According to Glancy & Binkow, the law firm that filed the class action suit:
"...on May 9, 2002, defendants [the then Applied Digital Corporation] claimed that nearly every major hospital in the West Palm Beach, Florida area would be equipped with VeriChip scanners, an indispensable component of the Company's VeriChip technology. However, one day later on May 10, 2002, the truth was disclosed that no hospital had accepted a scanner, an essential device for retrieving the VeriChip's information. Following the May 10, 2002, disclosure, the price of Applied Digital stock again fell sharply, dropping nearly 30% in a single day."
Building access and security
The VeriChip Corporation has marketed the implant as a way to restrict access to secure facilities such as power plants. Microchip scanners are installed at entrances so locks only work for persons whose chip numbers are entered into the system. Two employees of CityWatcher, an Ohio video surveillance company, had RFID tags injected into their arms in 2007. The workers needed the implants to access the company's secure video tape room, as documented in USA Today
USA Today is a national American daily newspaper published by the Gannett Company. It was founded by Al Neuharth. The newspaper vies with The Wall Street Journal for the position of having the widest circulation of any newspaper in the United States, something it previously held since 2003...
. The company closed, but there is no word on what happened to the employees or their implants.
A major drawback for such systems is the relative ease with which the 16-digit ID number contained in a chip implant can be obtained and cloned using a hand-held device, a problem that has been demonstrated publicly by security researcher Jonathan Westhues
Jonathan Westhues is a software, electronics, and security researcher known for his work exposing the security vulnerabilities of the VeriChip microchip implant and the proximity card...
and documented in the May 2006 issue of Wired
magazine, among other places.
The Baja Beach Club, a nightclub in Rotterdam, the Netherlands offers a VeriChip implant for identifying VIP guests.
Possible future applications
Theoretically, a GPS-enabled chip could one day make it possible for individuals to be physically located by latitude, longitude, altitude, speed, and direction of movement. Such implantable GPS devices are not technically feasible at this time. However, if widely deployed at some future point, implantable GPS devices could conceivably allow authorities to locate missing person
A missing person is a person who has disappeared for usually unknown reasons.Missing persons' photographs may be posted on bulletin boards, milk cartons, postcards, and websites, along with a phone number to be contacted if a sighting has been made....
s and/or fugitive
A fugitive is a person who is fleeing from custody, whether it be from private slavery, a government arrest, government or non-government questioning, vigilante violence, or outraged private individuals...
s and those who fled from a crime scene. Critics contend, however, that the technology would inevitably be used for more sinister purposes. Governments could use implants to track and persecute human rights activists, labor activists, civil dissidents, and political opponents; criminals and domestic abusers could use them to stalk and harass their victims; slaveholders could use them to prevent captives from escaping; and child abusers could use them to locate and abduct children.
Another suggested application for a tracking implant, discussed in 2008 by the legislature of Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...
's Irian Jaya would be to monitor the activities of persons infected with HIV
Human immunodeficiency virus is a lentivirus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome , a condition in humans in which progressive failure of the immune system allows life-threatening opportunistic infections and cancers to thrive...
, aimed at reducing their chances of infecting other people. The microchipping section was not, however, included into the final version of the provincial HIV/AIDS Handling bylaw
passed by the legislature in December 2008. With current technology this would not be workable anyway, since there is no implantable device on the market with GPS tracking capability.
Veterinary and toxicology
Toxicology is a branch of biology, chemistry, and medicine concerned with the study of the adverse effects of chemicals on living organisms...
studies carried out from 1996 to 2006 found that lab mice and rats injected with microchips sometimes developed cancerous tumors around the microchips (subcutaneous sarcoma
A sarcoma is a cancer that arises from transformed cells in one of a number of tissues that develop from embryonic mesoderm. Thus, sarcomas include tumors of bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, vascular, and hematopoietic tissues...
s). Data suggest that between 1% and 10% of the implanted lab animals developed malignant
Malignancy is the tendency of a medical condition, especially tumors, to become progressively worse and to potentially result in death. Malignancy in cancers is characterized by anaplasia, invasiveness, and metastasis...
Cancer , known medically as a malignant neoplasm, is a large group of different diseases, all involving unregulated cell growth. In cancer, cells divide and grow uncontrollably, forming malignant tumors, and invade nearby parts of the body. The cancer may also spread to more distant parts of the...
s originating in the tissue surrounding the microchips. Dr. Cheryl London, a veterinarian oncologist at Ohio State University, noted: "It's much easier to cause cancer in mice than it is in people. So it may be that what you're seeing in mice represents an exaggerated phenomenon of what may occur in people." London suggested a 20-year study of chipped canines was needed "to see if you have a biological effect." Specialists from several pre-eminent cancer institutions have supported such testing before microchips are implanted on a large scale in humans.
Other medical complications
According to the FDA, implantation of the VeriChip poses potential medical downsides. Electrical hazards, MRI incompatibility, adverse tissue reaction, and migration of the implanted transponder are just a few of the potential risks associated with the Verichip ID implant device, according to an October 12, 2004 letter issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
A patient could be burned if the chip reacts to outside source of EMF radiation, such as a strong electrical field or a magnetic resonance imager
Magnetic resonance imaging , nuclear magnetic resonance imaging , or magnetic resonance tomography is a medical imaging technique used in radiology to visualize detailed internal structures...
(MRI) machine. The strong magnets used in an MRI scanner could destroy the implant and cause serious burns, internally and externally. According to the FDA's Primer on Medical Device Interactions with Magnetic Resonance Imaging Systems
, "electrical currents may be induced in conductive metal implants" that can cause "potentially severe patient burns."
However, when the Mythbusters TV show, in Season 5 Episode 18, Myth Evolution, tested a microchip implant in an MRI machine, neither test subject showed any signs of pain or trauma. Since MRI machines come in various strengths, it is possible that higher energy-emitting MRI machines may be more problematic. The model and make of the chip could affect possible outcomes as well.
Since nearly all implantable microchips are unencrypted, they are extremely vulnerable to being read by third-party scanners. By scanning secretly, someone could steal the information on a chip and clone the signal, enabling a hacker to impersonate a chipped individual. This could create security problems for building or computer access or potentially enable criminal misuse of a medical account held by an unrelated person. Also, the chip could easily be removed from the person, or the appendage containing the device could be removed.
Microchip implant in humans have raised new ethical discussions by scientific professional forums, academic groups, human rights organizations, government departments and religious groups. The Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs (CEJA) of the American Medical Association
The American Medical Association , founded in 1847 and incorporated in 1897, is the largest association of medical doctors and medical students in the United States.-Scope and operations:...
published a report in 2007 alleging that RFID implanted chips may compromise privacy
Privacy is the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves or information about themselves and thereby reveal themselves selectively...
because there is no assurance that the information contained in the chip can be properly protected, notwithstanding health risks (chips may travel under the skin).
RFID tagging has been criticised by the representatives of multiple Abrahamic religions
Abrahamic religions are the monotheistic faiths emphasizing and tracing their common origin to Abraham or recognizing a spiritual tradition identified with him...
. In Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...
, some believe the implantation of chips may be the imprinting of The Mark of the Beast, prophesied to be a requirement for all trade, and thus a precursor to events the Book of Revelation
The Book of Revelation is the final book of the New Testament. The title came into usage from the first word of the book in Koine Greek: apokalupsis, meaning "unveiling" or "revelation"...
. In Judaism, Conservative, Orthodox, and Reform Jewish beliefs hold that that cutting, piercing or marking the flesh, thus a requirement for implantation, is contrary to the notion that people were made "in the image of God", and the orders in Leviticus 19:28. Similarly, Islam too considers body modifications "haram", an Arabic term meaning "forbidden", because they involve changing the body, a creation of Allah. In addition, the health risks associated with implantable microchips described above may also invoke Islamic prohibitions.
Wisconsin is a U.S. state located in the north-central United States and is part of the Midwest. It is bordered by Minnesota to the west, Iowa to the southwest, Illinois to the south, Lake Michigan to the east, Michigan to the northeast, and Lake Superior to the north. Wisconsin's capital is...
and North Dakota
North Dakota is a state located in the Midwestern region of the United States of America, along the Canadian border. The state is bordered by Canada to the north, Minnesota to the east, South Dakota to the south and Montana to the west. North Dakota is the 19th-largest state by area in the U.S....
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...
issued Senate Bill 362
in 2007, which prohibits employers and others from forcing anyone to have a RFID device implanted under their skin.
On April 5, 2010, Georgia, Atlanta, Senate passed Senate Bill 235 that prohibits forced microchip implants in humans and that would make it a misdemeanor for anyone to require them, including employers. The bill would allow voluntary microchip implants, as long as they're performed by a physician and regulated by the Georgia Composite Medical Board. If the General Assembly passes the new Senate version, Georgia would join California, North Dakota and Wisconsin in banning mandatory microchip implant.
On February 10, 2010 Virginia's House of Delegates also passed a bill that forbids companies from forcing their employees to be implanted with tracking devices.