Posted by: on July 28, 2017 at 3:00 pm

tiny RFID chip

Tiny RFID transmitters are already transforming business. But are implanted RFID chips a good idea?

You may have heard that a Wisconsin company, Three Square Market (32M), is offering to implant RFID (radio-frequency identification) chips into their employees. Employees will use the chips to “make purchases in the company’s break room market, open doors, login to computers, use copy machines,” and more.

We were going to write about this under our “Cool New Tech” banner, but implanting chips into humans bothers a lot of people. We’re not yet convinced ourselves that human-implanted RFID is “cool.”

What’s New?

RFID is not new – businesses have been using radio-frequency transmitters and readers for years for inventory, quality control, shipping, and more. Some companies and colleges control staff and student security access with RFID badges. Disney’s Magic Bands even work on RFID technology.

What’s new about all of this is injecting RFID chips into employees. To be fair, it does sound a bit sci-fi and dystopian. It might even feel like an invasion of privacy, akin to attaching a GPS tracker to a vehicle. Certainly, security is a major concern. Who has access to the scanners? Can they access employee information? What information is being collected?

What Can Responsible Employers Do?

While by no means comprehensive, here are a few ideas that responsible business owners can consider to keep employee RFID data secure:

  • Be transparent with your staff about the entire process.
  • Check your local laws. Wisconsin and other states have laws stating that employers may not require implanted chips.
  • Go a step further and keep implantation voluntary. Wearable technology can often provide the same access as an implanted chip.
  • Enable only necessary functions.
  • Gather only necessary employee data.
  • All personally-identifying information should be encrypted. 32M is encrypting their data; Disney also does with their Magic Bands.
  • Secure physical RFID scanners and restrict database access.
  • Review your general computer network security, to be certain that you’ve done all you can to protect your business from hackers and other external security risks.

Really, as far as RFID goes, the only thing that’s new and different in the Wisconsin case is the implanting. RFID has been around for a long time. It isn’t going away. Security is available, as are guidelines for ethical use. Three Square Market employee participation is voluntary. With the proper safeguards in place, implanted RFID might have benefits that we can’t foresee at this point.

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