You may have heard of the latest approach to authentication in businesses: inserting microchips into their employees.
While this approach has worked wonders in the pet community, helping returning lost furry friends to their owners, the use of microchips in a business environment is not only dehumanizing, it’s also pointless.
It’s true, passwords are not sufficient to defend your network, that has been well established over the years. You need additional factors to provide high identity assurance. But it’s absurd to think that the “human-embedded option,” which is basically a code (private key) embedded in an RFID chip, the same one you use to access your gym, is the wave of the future.
There are plenty of ways our society is shifting frighteningly Orwellian, but just because something seems like what you might see in a dystopian thriller, doesn’t mean it will ever become a practical reality. So for those of you thinking “sure, it’s not practical to be branded like cattle — yet,” while you’re rolling up your sleeve for that future incision, stop right there.
Here’s why this is not the future and will never be a good idea from a technology aspect and a human rights aspect.
I’m my own security token – enroll me!
Embedding a subdermal chip basically turns you into a smart card, one that you can’t lose (unless you lost your arm), can’t be stolen (unless someone chops off your arm), and can’t be used by anyone besides you (unless you’re a really deep sleeper). Sounds amazing, right? Before you roll up your sleeves, lets review a few aspects.
Your employer should not have rights to your body
This point has surely been made by human rights groups, but just to reiterate: If you go to a job interview that is not for the X-Men and your employer requires you to get chipped to “streamline business operations,” your reaction should be sprinting to the exit. Think of the violation of your basic human rights; your employer just asked you to undergo an operation to work for him.
Another option to improve productivity would be to connect the employee to an IV to cut down on lunch breaks. If you wouldn’t agree to that, you shouldn’t agree to microchips. And no matter how advanced microchips may get, this principle will remain: bodily autonomy must be inalienable and those rights must not be transferred to employers.
It won’t ever be really secure
RFID are very easy to copy and clone. This hasn’t seemed to be a problem when it comes to pets, but then again, I have yet to meet an organization that secures physical or network access with pets.
For humans, this weakness is definitely an issue. RFID is a passive technology that, when cloned, remains a single authentication factor. If you lost your gym RFID chip, it will grant access to its new owner, and you will replace the chip. If the one implanted inside you gets cloned, that’s a bit harder to replace. Surgery. Again.
You already have a security token, and it’s basically part of you
Embedding a microchip is really cool and sounds futuristic and might appeal to some, but does it provide a level of security and convenience that can only be reached with a subdermal chip? Of course not.
The smartphone you are carrying is an authentication device, a highly advanced encrypted device with biometric capabilities and secure storage. It has Bluetooth and NFC; both can be used to provide physical access and network access. And, admit it: your phone is basically grafted to your hand all the time, isn’t it?
Phones can have multi-factor authentication, and you can arrange it so that you need to unlock your phone to allow access by using a biometric scanner, facial recognition, or a pin code. In the future, we can expect phones to become ever more secure, lighter weight, and easy to use – and upgrading your phone does not require a scalpel, something that will always be a drawback of biohacks like microchipping.
Go big or go home
If humans ever do agree to become part machine, let it be for more individualistic purposes than more efficiently punching the clock. Elon Musk’s Neuralink, for example, can give immobilized people the chance at technological autonomy by empowering them to control phones and computers with their thoughts. And because the sensor is connected to an external computer, firmware updates will theoretically not require the same laser-drilling in your skull and installation does.
And while, of course, advanced biohacks like this will introduce a host of their own security concerns, at least the motivation behind them is to better the lives of humans, rather than increase your employer’s profits. Until then, stick with your phone, not embedded gym membership dongles.
The man will always be the man
I hate that I have to say this, but employers always have their best interest in mind in the end, not yours. You know that, right? Even morale-boosting is really about improved productivity. Even team-building is really about efficiency and work flows. Even free lunch is really about getting you to work through the meal and not leave the office.
And, surprise surprise, even turning you into a starter-cyborg is not for you, it’s for them. Employer self-interest is something we can count on for millenia to come. You can wave your hand at the vending machine and get a candy bar, all for the low price of total invasion of privacy and loss of bodily autonomy.
Published August 17, 2019 — 15:00 UTC