And more than ½ of employees are volunteering for the invasive procedure
On August 1st of this year, fifty out of eighty employees threw privacy to the wind at a Wisconsin inaugural “chip party.” I wish I was talking about some festive event where people ate chips; alas, I am talking about employee microchips. If you’re still unclear as to what employee microchips entail, let me elaborate. Three Square Market, a vending machine technology company in River Falls, WI, implanted literal microchips within their employee’s bodies to afford them the mundane luxury of buying potato chips off of their own vending machines.
If that sounds disappointing there are a few more perks to walking around with a microchip in your arm at work. Aside from allowing employees to namely make purchases in what is known as a break room micro market, employee microchips also allows workers to open doors, login to computers, use the copy machine, etc., all with just one magical swipe of their modified hand. Oh yeah, if I didn’t mention it already, the chip goes between the thumb and forefinger.
A company called 32M, in conjunction with BioHax International based out of Sweden, provided the technology to chip all voluntary employees and believes the use of Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) tech will change the way employees socialize, work, and interact in the workplace. CEO of 32M, Todd Westby, insists it will drive everything from making purchases in the office break room to opening doors, unlocking phones, sharing business cards, storing medical/health information to even acting as a form of payment at other RFID terminals. Westby believes employee microchips could even lead to something as big as universal identification, saying,
“Eventually, this technology will become standardized allowing you to use this as your passport, public transit, all purchasing opportunities, etc.”
It’s not that I don’t believe this is impossible to achieve that makes me seem like such a naysayer; it’s that it’s already happening that brings out the paranoid Orwellian in me. Say what you will about convenience and innovation, the bottom line is this: employee microchips, or microchips of any kind, are never a good technology because of their insane susceptibility to being hacked.
The world has already seen the damage hackers can do at the expense of guileless consumers with IoT-everything in their house. The fridge can get hacked, the dishwasher can get hacked, data can be mined from seemingly innocuous places like vehicles, cameras, and sensored home devices, and these are all inanimate objects that surround us. Now imagine living with that same threat of being hacked, only the threat is in your body and permanently tied to your identity. It’s a stupid idea at best and a recipe for disaster at worst.
And this is why companies need to start thinking about the technology they invest in. It’s easy to sell something when you throw around words like ‘innovation,’ ‘future-tech,’ and ‘industry leaders;’ it’s a lot harder to stop and think about exactly what that technology entails and what it will mean for your business in five, ten, and fifteen years.
Above all else, business needs to prioritize its safety, people, and practices, which means when approaching new tech, business needs to keep in mind the security risks associated with new technology and weigh the value of new tech against the risk of company-wide exposure. What are you really gaining against what you could potentially be losing? In this case, a technology as invasive and permanent as employee microchips pits gaining convenience against losing employee data and company security. So you make the decision: is the risk worth potato chips?