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Gimme Chips With That

Consumerism Under Your Skin


Have you been "chipped" yet? A company called Applied Digital Solutions wants you to undergo a surgical procedure to implant a tiny RFID microchip in your arm. Why would you want to do this? Because "Radio Frequency ID" chips will eliminate the heavy burden of having to carry credit cards and remember your ATM numbers. Instead, your arm becomes your card and ID number -- simply run your arm under a scanner and your embedded radio chip sends a digital signal to the computer, allowing you to complete your transaction. ADS calls its microchip "VeriPay."

There's only one reason that ADS executives think we'll submit to this: They're insane. But serious. They insist that this technological leap is needed because many people lose their credit cards. "VeriPay solves that problem," says a corporate PR flak, cheerfully noting that ADS's chip "is sub-dermal and very difficult to lose. You don't leave it sitting in the backseat of a taxi."

Sub-dermal or not, your ID number still can be stolen by a thief who rigs up a device to intercept your radio-transmitted number, then plays it back later to your ATM machine.

If your number is stolen, or if you simply switch credit-card companies or banks, what are you to do? No problem, says the PR guy: "If you don't want it anymore. . .you can go to a doctor and have it removed. I call it an opt-out feature," he said gaily. Swell, instead of simply calling your credit card company to cancel your card, you'd have to call a surgeon. This is progress?

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