Living – Life – Large Oct. 25, 2023
As we step deeper into the people whose physiological functioning is dependent upon an electronic device, we are reaching out for a false piece of rice. The microchip implant, which is an integrated circuit, is the size of a grain of rice. Thousands of people have already elected to have a sub-dermal chip surgically inserted between the thumb and index finger, which becomes their new swipe key and credit card.
Radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips are identifying transponders that carry a unique identification number, which are tagged to assigned data, such as health records, social media profiles and financial information. RFID chips are passive transponders, which means the digital reader must be positioned a few inches away from the user’s microchipped hand to communicate.
In contrast, near field communication (NFC) chips use electromagnetic radio fields to wirelessly communicate to digital readers in close proximity. This is the technology behind smartphones and contactless credit cards.
The benefit of NFC over RFID is the existing infrastructure and the variety of overlapping virtually all private or public sectors of services and products already supporting NFC.
The technology may offer increased mobility for people with physically limiting health conditions. BioTeq, a UK-based tech firm, is exploring microchip services for those who are visually impaired to create audible or touch-sensory signals in the home.
The American Society for Surgery of the Hand indicated that RFID chip implants may carry potential health risks. Chip implants can cause an adverse tissue reaction to the hand and incompatibility with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology.
The security concern with NFC technology is that it could allow third-party interception attacks. Interception attacks happen when someone intercepts the data transmitted between two NFC devices and then alters the data as they are being relayed. Like any device, these personal chips have security vulnerabilities and potentially could be hacked, even if embedded underneath the skin.
Your so-called private chip implant can reveal sensitive personal information about your health and about your whereabouts. They can track your movements, how often you’re working and how long you’re working, if you’re taking toilet breaks and just where you are. Not to mention, the loss of privacy and human rights if the body becomes a human barcode.
Some companies have required employees to be chipped as a condition of employment and discriminate against job applicants who refuse the implant of the microchip. To date, Arkansas, California, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Utah and Wisconsin have banned employers from requiring employees to receive human microchip implants, or permanent identification markers.
Microchips offer alluring benefits of convenience and mobility, but they carry potential cyber-security and privacy risks. To protect consumers, it is a shared responsibility with consumers to understand their data rights as part of digital literacy, and technologists to promote informed engineering.
The use of digital identity has evolved together with our hybrid lifestyles. Several countries have explored digital vaccine passports for travel to secure a confirmation of a traveler’s health status. This exploration has driven home the value of digital identities to both private companies and government entities.
Last year in 2022, some foundational pieces of digital identity fell into place. In the U.S., the TSA authorized the first few companies to use mobile IDs to pass through airport security. Apple took this a step further to partner with Arizona, Colorado, Maryland and Georgia that offer mobile driver’s licenses so they store them into Apple’s digital wallets.
These moves show the trend toward a world of reusable identity, verify once, share anywhere approach to digital identity verification. The global market size for shareable or reusable identity will grow from $32 billion in 2022 to $266 billion by 2027.
Digital identities are in line to become mainstream and it cannot be said that they will never become mandatory for the future. The European Union will mandate digital identity, which went into effect in September 2023 and ensure all member states offer a digital identity wallet to citizens and businesses.
In the U.S., each state has its own identity infrastructure of birth records, marriage certificates, death records and driver’s licenses, which are the most shared forms of ID. While some states offer mobile driver’s licenses, other states are going to operate on their own timelines. So far there is no mandate to increase digital identity penetration and usage as there is in Europe.
A new U.S. digital identity bill is steadily making its way through Congress. The Improving Digital Identity Act has been reviewed by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and is expected to pass. A nearly identical version of the bill has also been introduced in the Senate, which means that it is one step closer to becoming a law.
Once passed, the Identity Act would give the federal government the legislative foundation it needs to start providing a digital ID service for American citizens. Lawmakers are hoping that digital IDs will help facilitate economic activity and give people a secure way to verify their identities in online interactions.
These bills stress that the service should only be offered on an opt-in basis, with the Senate version going so far as to state that the government cannot require digital IDs for any specific interaction. I just fear there is little safety inside this bill, as we cannot forget about the trump card of an amendment being played.
On that front, the bills would similarly prevent the government from creating a centralized national digital identity database. The bills suggest that the government’s digital ID program should supplement existing digital ID offerings from the private sector.
Digital ID means life is dependent on a power source and the Internet where not just algorithms will be monitoring what is being done; so too will the government and anyone else that can hack a computer. This quiet nudge for being chipped with a digital ID cannot be implemented into a free country calling it “convenience.” This is the line we cannot cross and continue with the freedom of the freethinking that is now becoming so highly feared. - dbA
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