Bioethics News

Wisconsin Company to Implant Microchips in Consenting Employees

A company in Wisconsin is offering employees the option of being implanted with microchips that will allow them to simply swipe their hands to carry out tasks such as opening company doors, making break room purchases, and logging onto computers. Though such technology is already employed in Europe, its debut at Three Square Market (32M) marks the technology’s debut in the United States.

On August 1st, the company will be holding a “chip party” to implant the rice-sized $300 microchips into employees’ hands. Over 50 of the company’s 85 employees are voluntarily receiving the optional implants. The microchip insertion is a seconds-long procedure, and involves using a syringe to place the chip between the thumb and forefinger. It can similarly be removed within seconds.

The Washington Post noted that though the technology “has raised privacy concerns because of the potential to track a person’s whereabouts and purchases, officials at 32M said the data in the microchip is encrypted and does not use GPS.”

“Part of my general concern is that we don’t go too fast and that we understand the implications of these sorts of (technologies),” University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Professor Michael Zimmer told the newspaper, which cited his concern about “the potential for ‘function creep,’ where the stated purpose of a technology ends up spilling over into other uses, including surveillance.”

32M COO Patrick McMullan noted that the company is currently limiting its microchip use to its workplace, but has received expressions of interest from a hospital chain and other organizations. “We need to be responsible with this. This is not something you can do fast,” he acknowledged.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.