Mi­crochip im­plants for em­ploy­ees not a thing of the fu­ture any­more

The Hamilton Spectator - - BUSINESS - MAG­GIE ASTOR

At first blush, it sounds like the talk of a con­spir­acy the­o­rist: a com­pany im­plant­ing mi­crochips un­der em­ploy­ees’ skin. But it’s not a con­spir­acy, and em­ploy­ees are lin­ing up for the op­por­tu­nity.

On Aug. 1, em­ploy­ees at Three Square Mar­ket, a tech­nol­ogy com­pany in Wis­con­sin, can choose to have a chip the size of a grain of rice in­jected be­tween their thumb and in­dex fin­ger. Once that is done, any task in­volv­ing ra­dio-fre­quency iden­ti­fi­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy — swip­ing into the of­fice build­ing, pay­ing for food in the cafe­te­ria — can be ac­com­plished with a wave of the hand.

The pro­gram is not manda­tory, but as of Mon­day, more than 50 out of 80 em­ploy­ees at Three Square’s head­quar­ters in River Falls, Wis­con­sin, had vol­un­teered.

“It was pretty much 100 per cent yes right from the get-go for me,” said Sam Bengt­son, a soft­ware en­gi­neer. “In the next five to 10 years, this is go­ing to be some­thing that isn’t scoffed at so much.”

Jon Krusell, an­other soft­ware en­gi­neer, and Melissa Tim­mins, the com­pany’s sales di­rec­tor, were more hes­i­tant. Krusell, who said he was ex­cited about the tech­nol­ogy but leery of an im­planted de­vice, might get a ring with a chip in­stead.

“Be­cause it’s new, I don’t know enough about it yet,” Tim­mins said. “I’m a lit­tle ner­vous about im­plant­ing some­thing into my body.”

The pro­gram — a part­ner­ship be­tween Three Square Mar­ket and the Swedish com­pany Bio­hax In­ter­na­tional — is be­lieved to be the first of its kind in the United States, but it has al­ready been done at a Swedish com­pany, Epi­cen­ter. It raises a va­ri­ety of ques­tions, both pri­vacy- and health-re­lated.

“Com­pa­nies of­ten claim that these chips are se­cure and en­crypted,” said Alessan­dro Ac­quisti, a pro­fes­sor of in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy. But “en­crypted” is “a pretty vague term,” he said, “which could in­clude any­thing from a truly se­cure prod­uct to some­thing that is eas­ily hack­able.”

A mi­crochip im­planted to­day to al­low for easy build­ing ac­cess could, in the­ory, be used to track the length of em­ploy­ees’ bath­room or lunch breaks with­out their con­sent or even their knowl­edge.

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