Microchip implants and human security

Are we asking the right questions?

face superimposed on keyboard privacy hacker

Recently, there was some buzz about a company that hosted a “microchipping party” in which fifty of its employees voluntarily agreed to have a tiny microchip implanted beneath their skin. The procedure only took seconds and injected a $300 chip in the fold of skin between the thumb and forefinger. The company footed the cost for both the insertion and the chip…and the snacks at the party.

The purpose of the chip is to make company security more convenient for the employees. It allows the employees to wave their hands at door locks to gain entry, log into their computers by merely approaching, and even purchase items from the breakroom vending machine. News of this little sci-fi soirée opened a huge debate about the steps we’re willing to take for convenience, as well as the privacy we’re willing to forgo in an attempt to make our lives easier and more connected. There’s no shortage of devices, platforms, and apps that take our information and track our activity. Many of these then use that data for business purposes, all while users happily check the box that says, “I accept the terms and conditions.”

Although there are many who argue for or against this level of invasiveness, I want to talk about something far more foundational. That is the will of someone to want to protect their privacy in the first place. We can argue all day long about whether or not this is an invasion of privacy, but what is more important is a look at the mindset of consumers in a world where the right to privacy and protection from identity theft is waning. This loss of consumer trust in systems meant to protect them is a side effect of record-setting data breaches and skyrocketing identity theft.

So many people have had their personal information and privacy compromised in data breaches that it can easily feel like we should just throw in the towel when it comes to protecting it in the future. After all, if we already know that cybersecurity systems fail and what should be the most secure networks, like the CIA and Equifax, can be hacked, why bother pretending you can protect your information? In light of this, people are desperate for new, more secure ways to protect their information. Injecting a microchip into your body might not seem like a good idea to many people, but if it means protecting yourself from the devastation of further identity theft crimes, it can start to look very appealing.

So, to chip or not chip? That is not the question I am answering. I am pointing out that there are more and more consumers, feeling violated and unsafe in the protection of their information every day and this has consequences. While leaps into fields with serious implications to a person’s privacy are something that should be discussed, we also need to be asking why people are willing to make these leaps.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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