Blaugust Day Three: Proprietary Biochips, the new loyalty card?

Today I discovered that the WordPress iOS app is still far from perfect (though hugely improved from when I first started using it) as it managed to lose my original half-finished post from this morning. That may prove a blessing in disguise, since I wasn’t happy with the post while writing it and since then I’ve come up with an entirely new topic to write about. 

Browsing the news, I came upon this Guardian article – ‘World’s Lamest Cyborg’ – about a company in Wisconsin which provided RFID biochip implants for it’s employees- which can allow them to purchase food, but only from the vending machine on company property.

While it’s cool to see RFID technology finally out in the commercial environment, it feels a world away from the kind of stuff I’m used to hearing about – individual code-aware ‘biohackers’ who reprogram their own, usually self-implanted chip to whatever they want it to do. These people are augmenting their own bodies, having someone else do it for you, with a chip you don’t have access to, feels like giving up control of yourself to some degree.

But it got me thinking.

So a company controls what you do with your implant and how you can use it, but after all, it’s only one tiny, grain of rice sized chip, and the human body is a big place. Maybe this is the way forward with ‘customer loyalty’ – a chip that gives them exclusive discounts, access and more. And you could have plenty of them – or would they start to interfere with each other, signal-wise? How many chips is too many?

There are plenty more questions surrounding the commercial implementation of RFID chips. What happens if you want it out? Or if the company changes the chip function? Or it gets hacked? Would you need contracts drawing up – mobile phone plan style? Is the implanting company responsible for any subsequent health issues? The liability and litigation issues could be endless, and it will be interesting to see how companies handle that, now this place has set the ball rolling.


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