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Two Victories for the Anti-RFID Crowd

There are two episodes recently which have aided the efforts of anti-RFID activists: the first a televised interview with the VeriChip chairman in which he advocates chipping US immigrants, the second a piece of legislation in the state of Wisconsin banning involuntary implants by employers of their employees.
Jun 05, 2006This article was originally published by RFID Update.

June 5, 2006—"Your industry is sick." This was the opening line of an email received last week by RFID Update in reference to a televised interview on the Fox News Channel with VeriChip chairman Scott Silverman, who argues that implanting microchips in immigrants to the United States could be a viable solution to the immigration issue. By injecting (pardon the pun) his company's controversial RFID technology into the recently inflamed debate over illegal US immigration, Silverman single-handedly provided fodder that the anti-RFID crowd will draw on for months to come.

"This chip today is being used for medical applications, to identify high-risk medical patients and their medical records in an emergency and clinical situation," begins Silverman, continuing, "but obviously, it can be applicable for the immigration issues we face today as well." Later, when asked if the hypothetical chipping program would be voluntary, Silverman answers somewhat illogically, "Absolutely. It's an election on the part of the immigrant or an election on the part of the government." Finally, he claims that VeriChip has "talked to many people in Washington about using it as an application for a guest worker program."

The concept that the US government would mandate human chipping on a subset of the population -- a subset with inherently fewer resources and legal rights -- is objectionable to even those with moderate views on the VeriChip technology. The rest of the RFID industry can only hope that the general public dismisses the concept as too unrealistic to consider seriously. If, on the other hand, people feel that the US government might really consider chipping immigrants, the industry could suffer irreparable harm in the court of public opinion.

The other news for the anti-RFID camp came from the state of Wisconsin, whose legislature passed a bill banning chip implants by corporations that don't have the approval of the implantee. The bill is expected to be signed into law by state governor Jim Doyle and represents a win for the Katherine Albrechts of the world for two reasons. First, it keeps employers from mandating the technology's usage; most people, anti-RFID or otherwise, probably consider that a good thing. The second reason, however, is that the bill unnecessarily singles out RFID. As a post in the RFID Law Blog from McKenna Long & Aldrigde notes, "Wouldn't it already be illegal for employers to conduct surgery on their employees without consent? Whether it is an appendectomy or implanting of an RFID chip? If it was really an issue, wouldn't prohibiting unauthorized surgical implantation across the board make more sense? Why start and stop with RFID chips? I don't want my employers or the government sticking anything under my skin without my permission -- a tattoo, a tic tac or a cardiac stent."
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