another kind of tag

RFID tag

It would be an interesting first day on the job : sign the paperwork, W-2 and whatever else, and then roll up your sleeve for a microchip injection.

Sounds like sci-fi, but it’s happened, and now a handful of states are making sure their citizens will never be forced to have a microchip implanted under their skin.

California joined Wisconsin and North Dakota in banning human implanting of these tags without consent.

No one’s quite sure how real a threat these forced implants might be or why states are feeling compelled to protect their residents from being physically tagged. Lawmakers are calling the legislation pre-emptive [isn’t that a term used for bombing other countries?] while the industry that produces the technology sees the states’ action as fear mongering.

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags
– tiny, data-storing microchips about the size of a grain of rice – are in passports, in Wal-Mart factory shipments and in subway passes in cities from New York to Taiwan. They are also in humans. On one less-than-likely episode of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” a paranoid actor Bob Saget even uses one to monitor his adulterous wife.

Unlike Global Positioning System (GPS) technology, which is used for constant, real-time tracking, RFID tags are scanned at close range [for now] – usually from a few feet to a few inches. The tags are tracked by scanners installed at checkpoints, such as office doors or warehouse loading docks. The systems are also commonly used in highway toll collection and as theft protection in car keys.

In humans they’ve been used to store medical information, to track movement and to gain access to locked rooms. To date, roughly 2,000 RFID chips have been sold for implantation in humans, says VeriChip Corp., the only manufacturer with a Food and Drug Administration-approved implantable chip.

The company is focusing its technology on medical patient identification, and about 400 patients, including those with Alzheimer’s disease, have RFIDs implanted. Other VeriChip human implants have been used by a Spanish nightclub to allow VIPs with implanted chips to bypass entrance lines and by the Mexico attorney general’s staff to safeguard identity information at a time when the kidnapping of government officials there is not uncommon.

Some customers are using them as high-tech keys. Ohio security firm raised eyebrows in 2006 when it requested that some of its employees be “chipped,” or implanted with tags for access to certain rooms. According to published reports, only two employees got the implants before the company dropped the program. has since shut down.

But forced chipping has been a rare practice, leading some industry spokespeople to decry regulation as “scare tactics.”

Wisconsin enacted the first RFID ban in May 2006, and North Dakota in April. Colorado and Ohio have bills in committee, and Oklahoma and Florida saw theirs die. Except for one U.S. House proposal to use RFID tags to track prescription drugs, Congress has not widely addressed the technology.