Microchip implants for employees not a thing of the future anymore
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.