A Healthy Dose of Common Sense

By Rich Handley

A trending Facebook post claims the U.S. government is using the coronavirus pandemic to embed RFID chips in everyone. Don't believe everything you read.

It's human nature to panic and make assumptions based not on proven facts but on a desperate need to maintain some level of control during a scary, out-of-control situation. We frequently see examples of this in news headlines, and it's evident in the endless string of conspiracy theories that have made the rounds. The latest such theory involves radio frequency identification… and it's ridiculous.

A post circulating around Facebook makes absurd claims regarding RFID technology and the current efforts to create a vaccine to the COVID-19 coronavirus. The post claims the U.S. government is creating an "antivirus" to the disease, which will contain an RFID chip so that the government will be able to track every individual's location and walking speed at all times, as well as what is in his or her blood stream.

The post predictably attributes this to the formation of a New World Order and claims the pandemic quarantine is just an excuse for the government to declare martial law and thereafter control the population. For most people, that would send up enough of a red flag for them to dismiss the notion outright. However, a growing number of people are willing to entertain such hoaxes, which is one reason why many have refused to self-quarantine and socially distance during this period of crisis: because they are wired not to believe anything those in authority tell them, even when what they're being told is truthful and in their best interests.

RFID Journal's readership are a savvy, intelligent bunch, so chances are good that none of you need to be told this. But just in case, let's clear this up:

No, the government is not secretly working to track your movements, your activity level, or what you put into your body via an RFID chip. No, the COVID-19 pandemic, which is killing an alarming number of people every day and causing untold damage to worldwide economies and businesses large and small, is not a hoax intended to cover up a government plot to remove your personal freedoms and build a New World Order. And no, the eventual vaccine (or "antivirus," as the post inaccurately calls it) will not inject RFID technology into your body without your consent. As an amusing insurance company ad says, "That's not how this works. That's not how any of this works."

Facebook has flagged the post as "false information" as part of the social-media giant's efforts to reduce the glut of blatant lies clogging up news feeds, but the post is still visible to those who wish to see it. Given how many people believe that the Moon landing never happened, that Elvis Presley faked his death, that Paul McCartney died in 1969 and was replaced by a lookalike, that vaccines cause autism, that chemicals in water are secretly turning people into homosexuals, that Hillary Clinton ran a sex-trafficking ring out of a pizzeria, that the Earth is flat, and that reptilian extraterrestrials are secretly running the planet, it's not surprising that some folks would believe in the idea of a secret RFID "antivirus."

Setting aside that the post misuses the term "antivirus" (which pertains to software, not vaccines), there are several reasons why the use of RFID in this manner simply wouldn't work. For one thing, even tiny RFID chips, such as those used for tracking pets, are too large to fit into the type of needle used to administer vaccines, rendering such an endeavor a non-starter. For another, while RFID can track a person's movements, it would be impractical and staggeringly cost-prohibitive to use the technology to track every single person everywhere at all times.

Simply put, it's not something any government would do because it wouldn't be worth the time, effort, and money involved, and it would be a plot doomed to failure. Plus, between your smartphone, your computer, your purchasing history, your virtual assistant, your fitness tracker, your vehicle's GPS device, your social-media activities, and other technologies you use every day, you're already being monitored by a great many sources, all of which you've consented to in the Terms of Service you've accepted. Thus, it would be pointless and redundant to create a worldwide pandemic scare just to inject you with a chip that would be inadequate to the task of accomplishing what the conspiracists claim it's being used for.

Tracking technologies can (and reportedly are) being utilized to stem the spread of the coronavirus and save lives, by helping authorities monitor the success of quarantine efforts, for example. This has understandably led to concerns about privacy incursion, but it's important that people keep their heads. Refusing to accept what others tell you at face value is a wise precaution as a general rule, as there are companies, institutions, and people in positions of power who are actively looking to misinform you even without a pandemic going on. Viewing what you're told with a skeptical eye is thus a good practice. However, embracing ridiculous conspiracy theories can do far more harm than good. Claiming the world is flat, that Elvis lives, or that we've never stepped foot on the Moon is relatively harmless, but riling up the masses to oppose life-saving vaccines is foolhardy, self-defeating, and dangerous.

A vaccine to the COVID-19 coronavirus is coming, but most experts agree that it will take 12 to 18 months for this to happen. Once it does, I urge you all to become vaccinated. You won't be opening yourself up to insidious government tracking via secretly embedded RFID chips—you'll be protecting yourself and your loved ones from an insidious and potentially deadly disease. In the meantime, whenever you're presented with conspiracy theories that sound too absurd to be true, consider that they very likely are. Don't let fear and paranoia infect you; the best way to vaccinate yourself against a plague of misinformation is with a healthy dose of basic common sense.

Rich Handley is the managing editor of RFID Journal. Rich has authored, edited or contributed to dozens of books about pop culture and is also the editor of Eaglemoss's Star Trek Graphic Novel Collection.