TL;DR – CALM DOWN. No one is forcing you to be chipped and you can’t be tracked or hacked.
So, I’ve seen a lot of people lose their minds over a Wisconsin company, Three Square Market (32Market), implanting NFC tags in their employees. Everyone just stop and a take a deep breath. You likely have no actual understanding of what the tag is or how it works, so let me tell you. I got one last year – an xNT, the original implantable NFC tag, from the company Dangerous Things (www.dangerousthings.com). It is exactly the same as what Three Square Market is offering to their employees. I know what it is and is not capable of doing. But let’s back up for a second.
First, the company is not forcing any employee to get it. There are several companies around the world who have offered the same thing (no, they are not the first) and no one has ever been forcibly implanted. Period. EVERYONE I have come across in the biohacking community is vocal about this NOT BEING MANDATORY. It is a choice, and we want to keep it that way. Furthermore, there is a growing political movement that specifically addresses concerns about bodily autonomy and preventing implants from becoming mandatory.
Now, to the most common concerns I’ve seen:
Can your tag be tracked?
NO. It is not a GPS device or even an active piece of electronics. It is a passive chip and antenna that pulls power from the device used to read it. The tag is the size of a grain of rice, and even if we wanted to cram active electronics in there, we can’t.
Can your tag be hacked?
NO. As I said above, these are passive devices that require power from a reader. In order to do so, the reading device essentially has to be placed directly on your tag (typically implanted in the hand) and held there still for several seconds. Also, some readers don’t read very well because of antenna differences. If someone really wanted to steal your stored data, they would have to physically attack you, restrain you, and then read your tag. If that were the case, you have bigger problems than someone reading your 800 bytes of information. But in the very unlikely event that someone did try to do that to you, don’t worry, because you can password-protect your tag.
So what are they good for?
PRIVACY AND SECURITY. Yes, you read that correctly. When I first saw NFC tags being implanted, I had many of the same privacy concerns that many of you do. But then I started actually researching the technology. NFC tags (implanted or not) can be used to lock and unlock devices and are more secure than a password or a fingerprint. Of course, implanting one means you’ll never lose it, and it will never get stolen. You can unlock your android phones, unlock your doors, safes, and padlocks (with specific NFC enabled hardware), and if you’re particularly good with electronics, you can rig up many Arduino or Pi-based devices that read and respond to your tag.
There are other cool things you can do. You can store links, digital business cards, Bitcoin wallets, or just generic text. But also understand that this technology is fairly new, and associated hardware are even newer. This is ground-level development going on, and because of that we can steer the development to ensure privacy and safety for the user. There is not a greedy corporation running the industry, just passionate hobbyists who are just as concerned about privacy as you are.
If you want more information, I highly suggest just asking someone who actually has an NFC tag or visit www.dangerousthings.com.
Ryan Starr (R. Nicholas Starr) is the is the leader of the Transhumanist Party of Colorado and founder of the Transhumanists of the Sierras.