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A Bag Full of Thumbs

Do we want to live in a world where people implant chips under their skin so they can access a building's doors, photocopiers and other systems?
By Robert Doswell
Tags: Privacy
Mar 29, 2015

For years now, there have been conspiracy theories posted on the Internet claiming governments will implant an RFID chip under your skin and track your every move. This doesn't bother me, even though, according to some conspiracy groups, the two Kinect sensors I have in my living room are also watching my every move, and the Facebook app on my smartphone is accessing the camera to see what I'm up to.

It's a good thing I don't own the latest Samsung TV!

However, I do know colleagues and a couple of clients who do not share my rather carefree attitude about the distribution or collection of my personal information when using these devices. For example, one of my colleagues refuses to turn on the GPS on his phone, in case he is tracked by the vendor providing the service and his information is handed over to the authorities.

So, I wonder how they would feel if they went to work at Epicenter? Epicenter is a new high-tech office block in Sweden where a chip under the skin of employees provides access to the building's doors, photocopiers and other systems. Workers will even be able to pay for their lunches in the not-too-distant future, via a thumb scan.

Is this a step too far?

I'm completely on the fence.

As someone who provides password-management solutions to some of the biggest organizations in the United Kingdom, I think the benefits are obvious. But what about the downsides? As an employer, I cannot offer a sick, in-pain colleague a paracetamol (acetaminophen). So, how can I insist that they have an implant in order to work for my organization?

And if they do get the implant, as in the case of employees at the Epicenter building, what would happen if someone left the organization? Must they then have a surgical procedure to remove the chip, or would they leave it in and try to forget about it?

Since RFID can be compromised, and because rogue readers can collect and delete data, am I surgically embedding a device that would need to be updated? Or maybe, just maybe, someday soon we'll see the next generation of hackers running around with bags full of thumbs.

Only time will tell, of course.

Robert Doswell is the managing director of Tools4ever UK, a supplier of access- and identity-management solutions.

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