As with many new technologies, people fear what they don't understand. In the case of RFID, consumers have many fears, some of which may be justified. This debate may be one of the few in which you'll find the American Civil Liberties Union and Christian Coalition on the same side.
Human chipping has seemingly higher stakes than merchandise tagging, and RFID critics are concerned that human chipping may one day become mandatory. When the company CityWatcher.com chipped two of its employees in 2006, these fears spun out of control. CityWatcher.com insisted that the employees were not forced to be chipped -- they volunteered for the microchip implants for easier access to secured vaults where confidential documents are stored. Other employees declined the implants, and their positions with the company were unaffected.
Aside from the limitations of VeriChip scanning discussed in the last section, human chipping has profound religious and civil liberty implications for some people. Some believe that human chipping is foretelling a biblical prophecy from the Book of Revelation, interpreting the chip as the "Mark of the Beast." To others concerned with civil liberties, the chip is bringing us one step closer to an Orwellian society, in which our every action and thought will be controlled by Big Brother.
While we can choose whether or not to put RFID chips in ourselves or our pets, we have little control over tags being placed on commercial products that we buy. In the book "Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track Your Every Move with RFID," Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre describe the most extreme implications of RFID tags. They describe how RFID tags could be used to gauge your spending habits and bank account to determine how much you should be charged for the products you buy. This may sound paranoid, but hackers have proven that some RFID tags can be tampered with, including disabling their anti-theft features and changing the price that corresponds to their product. Better encryption is needed to ensure that hackers can't pick up RFID frequencies with super-sensitive antennae.
What's more, some critics say that relying on RFID as the primary means of security could make human security checkpoints lazy and ineffective. If security guards rely solely on the RFID anti-theft devices in merchandise and RFID technology of government-issued identification to screen for criminals or terrorists, they might miss the criminal activity happening right in front of their eyes.
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