BioNyfiken, a Swedish biohacking group, has embedded radio frequency identification (RFID) chips in the hands of its office workers (Cellan-Jones 2015). The chips, inserted under the skin by a professional tattooist, enables staff to open doors, operate photocopiers, pay for lunch and log into computer systems (Cellan-Jones 2015).
As part of the evolving Internet of Things (IoT) landscape, an increasing number of humans are implanting technology into their bodies, not for medical reasons but simply for greater convenience in everyday life. In the near future, these RFID chips will seamlessly interact with all of the other devices that are becoming connected to the Internet and will be used, for example, to turn the house lights on or to start the car ignition (Thompson 2015).
The main ethical concern exists, however, whether all the benefits of RFID are worth the compromise to our freedom, privacy and autonomy. With these chips, an individual becomes a walking transmitter of their personal data and can be profiled and tracked without their knowledge, potentially feeding into a government database (Liao, Smith & Wang 2010, p.7). Given the implants are not shielded, the RFID chips can also be hacked and personal data such as contact information, website login data or credit card details stolen (Mearian 2015). RFID chips are also vulnerable to theft and abuse as people can copy the information from one chip and duplicate it on another, claiming it as their own (Liao, Smith & Wang 2010, p.7).
As bio-hacking groups such as BioNyfiken continue to uncover the realities of connecting our bodies to the Internet, the line between human and machine will become increasingly blurred. Despite the potential benefits of human chipping to increase efficiency and simplify mundane tasks, there is still important ethical and social issues to address as human beings morph into cyborgs. Indeed, the human body may just be the next big platform, and the Internet of Things will evolve to become the Internet of Us.
Check out the video I made on this subject here (beware of potentially disturbing footage):
Cellan-Jones, R 2015, ‘Office puts chips under staff’s skin’, BBC News, 29 January, accessed 21 October 2015, <http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-31042477>.
Liao, P, Smith, A & Wang, C 2010, ‘Convenience and Safety vs. Privacy: The Ethics of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)’, Ethical Publication, accessed 21 October 2015, <http://www.ethicapublishing.com/confronting/5CH13.pdf>.
Mearian, L 2015, ‘Office complex implants RFID chips in employees’ hands’, Computer World, 6 February, accessed 21 October 2015, <http://www.computerworld.com/article/2881178/office-complex-implants-rfid-chips-in-employees-hands.html>.
Thompson, C 2015, ‘Here’s why the strange practice of body hacking is taking off’, Business Insider Australia, 29 July, accessed 21 October 2015, <http://www.businessinsider.com.au/heres-why-body-hacking-is-taking-off-2015-7>.