US approves human chip implants

2004-10-30

Richard Moore

--------------------------------------------------------
Date: Sat, 16 Oct 2004 11:24:37 -0700
To: •••@••.•••
From: Alan Rycroft <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Justice.int-- Register: US approves human chip implants

Technology for its own sake -- RFID Implants 
Posted by: space on http://pej.org Friday, October 15, 2004 - 11:14 AM
    
In response to the approval of RFID human implants by the US
FDA [enough acronyms for you?] The Register  contributor
Thomas Greene speaks eloquently of technology gone mad. 
"Unique RF identity chips and concealed RF readers everywhere:
madmen have been complaining about this since the earliest
days of radio. That's how we knew they were madmen. o-nly an
IT industry divorced from any sense of good taste and human
dignity, in which technology becomes an end in itself, could
strive to make the nightmares of the insane a common reality."

-- Space & Technology Editor


Feds approve human RFID implants

By Thomas C Greene (thomas.greene at theregister.co.uk)
Published Thursday 14th October 2004 23:43 GMT
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/10/14/human_rfid_implants/

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a
gimmick from Florida-based Applied Digital Solutions
(http://www.adsx.com/) to chip people with RFID implants -
previously confined to tracking animals - thereby making it
easy to access their medical records, even when they cannot,
or would rather not, cooperate.

The tiny, passive RFID devices, called VeriChips
(http://www.adsx.com/prodservpart/verichip.html), are injected
under the hide. They do not contain the medical data in
question, but instead store a unique ID number that is used to
access records o-n a remote server maintained by Applied
Digital, using a handheld reader. The chips are legal in
numerous applications, but cannot be used as medical devices
without FDA approval - which they now have got.

So, what is the problem that this technology solves? We don't
think there is o-ne, unless doctors' offices are being flooded
with people who can't recall their own medical histories. Yes,
some people do suffer from dementia, but these are most often
found already in nursing facilities and hospitals, or at least
supervised by a nurse or family member.

Of course, accident victims may be found unconscious, but a
simple dog tag suffices to warn emergency crews of drug
allergies and tricky medical conditions. And the dog tag has
two distinct advantages: first, in non-emergency situations,
the owner can prevent others from reading it simply by
concealing it under the clothes; and second, the data is
there: it doesn't suffer from availability problems, as remote
servers so often do.

The company says that the chips will save lives and reduce
medical errors, but we are not persuaded. Indeed, if, during
an emergency, the data were unavailable due to some technical
glitch, and the patient were unconscious, the VeriChip might
cost lives that a simple dog tag or bracelet would have saved.
Medical data availability is a serious safety issue, as we
discussed previously
(http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/04/28/
bush_wants_electronic_medical_recor ds/).

Technology for its own sake

For the moment, Applied Digital implies (but does not actually
guarantee) that chip owners will be the o-nly people permitted
to add or delete medical data in their database. But this
could change over time, and the idea that some alarmist quack
or passionately risk-averse hospital administrator might be
permitted to embellish o-ne's records is decidedly
frightening. o-ne would need an ironclad guarantee, with
serious teeth, asserting that no such thing will happen,
before submitting to the hypo.

And then there's the question of access. o-nce you've got an
implanted RFID chip, you necessarily lose control over the
people who might wish to read it. You have a unique identifier
that can be read without your knowledge. Thus there is nothing
to prevent, say, businesses or government bureaux from
surreptitiously reading o-ne's VeriChip, and correlating
o-ne's ID number with their own set of criteria, hosted o-n
their own remote servers, for whatever purposes their twisted
bureaucratic minds can conceive.

And Applied Digital certainly is thinking along these lines.
Indeed, the medical care angle looks like a warm-and-fuzzy
gimmick to speed adoption so that other, potentially more
sinister, applications might follow.

"VeriChip can enhance airport security, airline security,
cruise ship security, intelligent transportation and port
congestion management. In these markets, VeriChip could
function as a stand-alone, tamper-proof personal verification
technology," the company's PR boilerplate explains.

We doubt that many people will go for this scheme, but if it
were to succeed commercially, it seems plausible that the
embedded RFID chip could eventually become a universal
identifier, like the Social Security number, which itself was
not intended to be a universal identifier but has in fact
become o-ne. Mission creep happens.

Unique RF identity chips and concealed RF readers everywhere:
madmen have been complaining about this since the earliest
days of radio. That's how we knew they were madmen. o-nly an
IT industry divorced from any sense of good taste and human
dignity, in which technology becomes an end in itself, could
strive to make the nightmares of the insane a common reality.
And yet, here we are. ®

Thomas C Greene is the author of Computer Security for the
Home and Small Office (http://basicsec.org), a comprehensive
guide to system hardening, malware protection, o-nline
anonymity, encryption, and data hygiene for Windows and Linux.



o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o

          Alan Rycroft, Sunshine Communications
       250.592.8307 Canada
    Box 8307, Victoria, BC, V8W 3R9

    •••@••.•••
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