Early adopters of human chipping

04 Mar 2013

Human chipping is considered one of the more far-fetched options for future human identity management. It forms an intrusion in the body and hence evokes medical risks that tokens and biometrics do not have. It is also more controversial (‘mark of the beast’) than ID-cards, surveillance cameras and biometrics together. Nevertheless, implanting an RFID chip directly under the skin is already more prevalent than one would expect.  Most common is the implant for medical or research purposes. A number of artists have also voluntarily accepted an implant, in order to experiment with the reactions of other people and their surroundings. Almost 8 years ago, partly as a publicity stunt, some European clubs (BajaBeach Club in Rotterdam and Barcelona, Bar Soba in Glasgow) offered their customers the possibility to get chipped in order to gain VIP status, and conduct financial transactions. Companies have tried out human chipping on their employees to the extent that some US states have now adopted legislation against such forced  chipping. There is also a small group of Do-it-Yourself Chippers that have implanted chips for more convenient access to their belongings. The North-American Amal Graafstra is the pioneer of the latter group who also runs a successful website and gives self-chipping advice, among other things in his book RFID Toys.

In collaboration with a research master student of the Erasmus University Rotterdam, Sandra Wagemakers, we are preparing research about the early adopters of human chipping. As  first step, Sandra collected all present research about the acceptance of human chipping outside of the medical and research purposes. She found a couple of case studies about individual implantees, and some surveys about the potential acceptability of human chipping. A summary of her findings is available to download here.  In the next stage we will be able to conduct a survey and indepth interviews among early adopters, thanks to the kind collaboration of Katina Michael and Amal Graafstra.