Wisconsin may soon become the first state to ban the practice of mandatory microchip implants in human beings. State Representative Marlin Schneider has authored a proposal that will make it illegal for governments and companies to require RFID chips, or implanting them in employees without their knowledge. (Granted, I’m not sure how an agency would perform a stealthy implant procedure without an employee noticing, but then again, who knows what kind of technology we will see in the future?)
Apparently, Governor Jim Doyle has said he will sign the bill, which isn’t really a surprise as this is the man who has mandated that all our electronic voting machines be run on open source software. :)
For those of you unfamiliar with this technology, RFID is a technology where a tiny chip can be embedded in either a living being or inanimate object and it will broadcast an encoded identification signal to any receiver that requests such information using the right key. Most chips do not require a power source, although there are “active” tags (which constantly broadcast) that do require some sort of battery. This technology is already beginning to be used for a number of products or security systems, and there are even some clubs in Europe that require such an implanted chip to access VIP areas. Unfortunately, this technology has also been shown to be insecure and many (including myself) consider it to be a great danger to the privacy and security of individual citizens. For more information on RFID, I recommend you check out its Wikipedia entry, and also make sure to check out the external links referenced on that page.
As to the ban, I think this is a great idea as RFID technology is becoming more and more popular everyday. A large number of companies are already employing biometric identification (which I don’t have a problem with as long as such it is limited in scope) and requiring this kind of implant is really only a tiny step away. In a lot of ways, this proposed ban is actually somewhat visionary as it is anticipating the dangers to personal privacy in the future uses of this technology, and instead of reacting at that point when it has already become widespread, it is taking action to eliminate that threat now. Admittedly, the ban will still allow optional implants, and I can see a few ways companies will be able to finagle around this ban by using that loophole, but really RFID technology ( if it is used appropriately) is just too damn useful to outlaw completely. However, I think Wisconsin is taking a step in the right direction by protecting its citizens.