• United States



Implanted RFID chips to implanted invisible headphones: Modded bodies and privacy

Aug 27, 20135 mins
Computers and PeripheralsData and Information SecurityMicrosoft

Implanted RFID chips to implanted invisible headphones, will body modifications enhance or invade privacy?

There are some people who would not only embrace a robotic overlord, but would actually like to become that overlord. Enhancing humans through augmentation might be a fringe movement right now, but many people believe it is inevitably our future. Some folks believe people will have technology-modded bodies not like pacemakers to overcome medical needs in our biological bodies, but for transhumanism “to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.” If and when this happens, other people such as athletes will adopt biomechanical interfaces simply to be able to compete.

Pre-Google Glass, a Canadian professor had a pair of computerized glasses “permanently” attached to his skull. When another person insisted he remove the glasses and then tried to rip them off his face, transhumanist enthusiasts called it “the first hate crime against cyborgs.”

Some body modification fans, or grinders, don’t want to use a smartphone app for home automation. Amal Graafstra is a double RFID implantee, meaning his experiments with human augmentation include having RFID implants in both hands. He asked, “Ever want to control door locks, log into your computer, or start your car with a wave of your hand?” Last year at Toorcamp, an American hacker camp, he ran an RFID Implantation Station. Of the hundreds who attended Toorcamp, eight of them were willing to implant an RFID tag in their hand.

Artist Anthony Antonellis recently implanted an RFID chip in his hand to store a “digital tattoo” that he can access, and eventually swap out for other art, via his smartphone. He likes “the idea of micro-curation. Think of it as a changeable, digital net art tattoo vs. fixed information.” AnimalNewYork was on hand to shoot a video of the process and reported:

The NFC / RFID chip is the size of a grand of sand. It’s equipped with a tiny antenna and encased inside a glass capsule to keep it from being disrupted by its fleshy environment. This chip stores 1KB of data and is readable like a key fob by compatible phones, tablets, card readers and the Arduino microcontroller.

“It’s usually used for privacy, but I use it for a public purpose, which is to distribute artwork,” the artist explains. He hovers his Android 1-2cm above the clotted cut, and up pops his favicon, a signature Antonellis gradient gif.

It’s unknown if other people would embrace the idea of implanting an RFID chip if it held a lot more than 1KB of data. If it had massive storage and the data was encrypted, would it be one extreme way to keep your personal data private and safe from the prying and spying eyes of the NSA?

The flipside of a body modification to enhance privacy is a body mod that could secretly invade the privacy of others. Wired wrote about Rich Lee who created “invisible headphones by implanting magnets into his ears.” He wears a magnetic coil necklace connected to an amplifier, but it “is completely hidden by his clothing, and the scars from the implants are also unnoticeable, so it’s unlikely you’d realize that as he was standing in front of you he could be listening to music.”

Lee wrote about his future plans:

Listening to music is nice and probably the most obvious answer, but I intend to do some very creative things with it. The implant itself is completely undetectable to the naked eye. The device & coil necklace are easily concealed under my shirt so nobody can really see it. I can see myself using it with the GPS on my smartphone to navigate city streets on foot. I plan to hook it up to a directional mic of some sort (possibly disguised as a shirt button or something) so I can hear conversations across a room. Having a mic hooked up to it and routed through my phone would be handy. You could use a simple voice stress analysis app to detect when people might be lying to you. Not to say that is a hard science, but I’m sure it could come in handy at the poker table or to pre-screen business clients. I have a contact mic that allows you to hear through walls. That might be my next implant actually.

Alrighty . . . like that’s not creepy at all. Granted, I haven’t given the topic too much in-depth thought, but for some reason when I thought about human augmentation and people having body modifications that enable them to have cool “super-powers” . . . it didn’t occur to me that those might be used to secretly invade the privacy of others. Peachy.

Like this? Here’s more posts:

  • LOVEINT: Abusing NSA surveillance power in the name of ‘love’
  • Black Hat: Smart TVs are the ‘perfect target’ for spying on you
  • Tech and legal site shuts down, citing government email surveillance
  • Privacy & security nightmares: Hacking smart toilets, smart toys, smart homes
  • Shocker: Despite domestic spying denials, NSA broke privacy rules thousands of times
  • Careful Windows Phone 8 users, connect to rogue Wi-Fi & hackers can steal passwords
  • UK govt leak police destroyed Guardian hard drives to stop secret surveillance stories
  • Is having your photo featured on Bing homepage enough reason to give up your rights?
  • Not cyber myths: Hacking oil rigs, water plants, industrial infrastructure
  • Cautionary tales: Teen beauty queen and baby spied on via hacked cameras
  • Pinterest patched critical security flaw that compromised users’ privacy
  • Black Hat: It’s not ‘tricky’ for hackers to turn your phone into a SpyPhone
  • USA PRISM Plus, the perfect NSA photo-sharing app for those who have nothing to hide

Follow me on Twitter @PrivacyFanatic

ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.