New study identifies growing unease over human 'tracking chips'

Research uncovers medical concerns and worries over rights violations in society over possible future use of under-the-skin tracking devices

New study identifies growing unease over human 'tracking chips'

New research has revealed growing social unease over electronic tracking technology that monitors workers' activity, and which may evolve into implants placed directly under human skin.

Professors Nada Kakabadse, Professor in Management and Business Research at University of Northampton and Andrew Kakabadse, Professor of International Management Development at Cranfield University, examined developments in tracking technology already linked to company vehicles and mobile communication devices, alongside employee attitudes towards the prospect of ‘social tagging' through Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips.

Nada Kakabadse commented: ‘Our research and the views captured illustrate arguments focusing on human rights issues and privacy intrusion relating to IT applications.

‘In 2004, the US Food and Drug Administration approved an RFID implant called VeriChip, about the size of a grain of rice, for medical purposes. Nightclubs in Rotterdam and Barcelona already offer implants to customers for entry and payment purposes. Some claim the ‘Obamacare Health Act' makes under-the-skin (subdermal) RFID implants mandatory for all US citizens.’

Study participants thought the widespread use of subdermal RFID tags in humans was inevitable, but also noted the deployment of implant systems was not being fully considered.

Nada Kakabadse continued: ‘There was a general unease about what they saw as the covert, subtly coercive manner in which implant technology was being introduced by governments and big business.’

The study suggests a number of specific questions need to be answered ahead of moves towards widespread ‘human chipping':

Who owns the implanted microchip?

Who has access to the information transmitted?

Is consent to the implant fully informed?

Who guarantees the individual's rights against violation?

How medically safe and technically secure is the technology?

Nada and Andrew Kakabadse conclude that ‘caution, naivety and fear’ are the underlying reasons for society accepting RFIDs without question, and that RFIDs will become a part of everyday working and domestic life in the near future. All participants in the study were concerned about what they perceived as the surreptitious, sometimes coercive nature of implant projects. 

Dr. Nada Kakabadse is Professor in Management and Business Research, University of Northampton, Business School and Visiting Professor at US, Australian, French, Kazakhstani and Chinese universities.

Dr. Andrew Kakabadse is Professor of International Management Development, Cranfield University and Visiting Professor at US, Australian, French and Chinese universities.

Written by Wireless magazine
Wireless magazine

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