Would You Let Your Employer Implant a Microchip in Your Hand?

More than half the employees at a Wisconsin company have volunteered to do so

10 August 2017

More than half of the 80 employees at Three Square Market, a technology company in River Falls, Wis., said yes when asked this month if they wanted to have a microchip implanted in their hand.

The RFID chip, the size of a grain of rice, is to be inserted between their thumb and index finger. Using near field communication, it is designed to replace a swipe badge used for such things as entering the office building and paying for meals in the company’s cafeteria.

Employees must place their hand 15 centimeters or less from the RFID device in order for it to read the chip’s encrypted serial number and associate that number with the requested function. The chip is removable and free to employees.

Three Square Market makes self-service checkout systems for vending machines and mini markets found in office buildings. It’s the first company in the United States to implant chips in its employees, according to The New York Times.

Sam Bengtson, a software engineer at Three Square Market, told the Times he didn’t hesitate to be chipped. “In the next five to 10 years, this is going to be something that isn’t scoffed at so much,” he said.

Melissa Timmins, the company’s sales director, told the Times that she is nervous about putting the device in her body, but added that the innovative technology is hard to resist.

“It’s pretty exciting to be part of something new like this,” Timmins said. “I know down the road it’s going to be the next big thing, and we’re on the cutting edge of it.”

EARLY ADOPTERS

Three Square Market partnered with Biohax International, a Swedish company specializing in microchip technology, to develop the device. In 2015 Biohax began implanting similar chips in employees at Epicenter, a coworking space that houses startups and innovation labs in Stockholm, Sweden, according to an Associated Press report.

Epicenter adopted the technology for similar reasons as Three Square Market did. Being an innovative front-runner is important to both operations.

Epicenter’s CEO, Patrick Mesterton, told the The Washington Post that 75 of the 2,000 people who work at the space had the chip implanted, including 12 of his employees.

MICROCHIP CRITICISM

Despite the conveniences the chip can provide, many people are skeptical the technology will take off.

When the Post spoke in April to management consultants from the McKinsey Global Institute and Deloitte about the chips, they predicted the devices were unlikely to show up in American workplaces soon because of cybersecurity concerns.

Alessandro Acquisti, a professor of information technology and public policy at Carnegie Mellon, told the Times that although companies claim the microchips are secure and encrypted, there no guarantee a chip will not be hacked.

The chip’s announced purpose could change, too. It could, in theory, be used to track the duration of bathroom and lunch breaks without the employees’ knowledge or consent, Acquisti noted.

Acquisti told the Times that once the chips are implanted, it’s hard to predict or stop how influential they could be.

Would you allow your employer to implant a microchip in you? Might this technology one day be required in workplaces?

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