It’s all over the news. Fifty employees of a company named Three Square Markets, in River Falls, Wisconsin, are lining up to have an RFID tag implanted between their thumb and forefinger. With the company CEO and his family leading the way, employees are volunteering to have it done. And they’re apparently excited about it.
Here is a link to one of the stories from CBS News. Here is another one from the St. Paul Pioneer Press, which reprinted the original Washington Post story. The Pioneer Press should be embarrassed that it had to reprint a Washington Post story about what’s going on in its own neighborhood, but that’s a different topic.
Implanting RFID tags in people is not new. But it will always be a bad idea on many levels. I’ll get to that in a minute. First, how the technology works.
RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags are at least twenty years old. They’re about the size of a grain of rice and they contain one piece of data; a unique ID. Think of it as a serial number. They’re passive, meaning they don’t need batteries, and they’re inexpensive at about fifteen cents per unit. Pass an RFID tag near an RFID reader, and the reader triggers a tiny radio signal from the tag with that number. The RFID reader “hears” the number and sends it to a computer. That’s it – that’s the technology.
The power is in the applications. Retailers use RFID tags to track inventory. Walk into a modern retailer and you’ll see RFID readers near the entrance. We put RFID tags in dogs and cats to track our pets. They’re in vehicles to automatically pay when passing through toll booths. They’re in badges to enter secure doors. Manufacturers use them to track work in progress. Today’s world is awash in RFID tags.
What’s not to like? RFID revolutionized retailing and other industries by improving efficiency and driving down costs.
Imagine the convenience if we could uniquely identify every human being in the world by scanning a hand. Wave a hand over a vending machine to buy a sandwich. Walk past an RFID reader in a doctor’s office and a computer in the back room looks up all your medical records. Keep a living will on file. Or organ donor information, which could save lives.
The applications are limited only by our imaginations.
Which is one reason why implanting RFID tags in humans is bad. Do I really need to spell out the dangers of databases that track everything there is to know about us? All that convenience comes with a cost. Do we really want to live in a world with RFID readers everywhere, in front of massive databases that track everything we do?
And it gets worse. I’m a Christian, and I believe the Bible is the word of God, recorded by people and handed down to us over the generations. We can argue whether the authors of the Bible stories we read today told the truth, but it’s indisputable that lots of scholars have gone to lots of trouble to make sure today’s New Testament accurately reproduces what those authors said.
And in one book we’ve come to call Revelation, an Apostle named John, around 95 AD, predicted implanting today’s RFID tags into humans as a sign of really bad things in the world of his future. Just read what he said, from Revelation, chapter 13: I’ll quote verses 16 and 17:
16 It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, 17 so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.
There’s lots of context and discussion about these verses. Just explore the link above to see for yourself.
I don’t mean to turn this blog post into a Bible study. Here’s the point: with people apparently excited today about implanting these things in their bodies, it’s not much of a stretch to imagine these things becoming mainstream and a requirement soon.
Not inside my body. I am not a serial number, I’m not a piece of inventory, I’m a flesh and blood human being. I’ll go to jail or worse before ever consenting to implanting one of those things inside me.