UK WORKERS could be asked to embed microchips under their skin in a move that employers claim will improve security (replacing ID cards), but one which is are leaving a bad taste in the mouths of workers and trade unions.
Two firms, BioTeq from the UK and BioHax of Sweden, have confirmed that they have been approached by firms interested in the tiny RFID chips, which measure about the same as a grain of rice and are exactly the same as those used to monitor pets.
The companies that BioHax has been approached by aren't the warehouses and factories that you would expect, but rather financial and legal firms including one with hundreds of thousands of employees.
But whilst the employers can see the value, worker organisations such as the CBI have expressed their concern:
"While technology is changing the way we work, this makes for distinctly uncomfortable reading. Firms should be concentrating on rather more immediate priorities and focusing on engaging their employees."
Meanwhile, the TUC is worried that people may find themselves being coerced into having the chips fitted in some post-Black Mirror exercise in control.
General secretary Frances O'Grady told the Guardian: "We know workers are already concerned that some employers are using tech to control and micromanage, whittling away their staffs' right to privacy.
"Microchipping would give bosses even more power and control over their workers. There are obvious risks involved, and employers must not brush them aside, or pressure staff into being chipped."
So far, BioTeq has fitted around 150 chips, mostly to individuals using them as Bitcoin wallets and alternatives to Oyster cards, or to store medical data for emergencies. As such, they remain largely the domain of biohackers and curious nerds.
However it also confirmed that it has bank employees testing the tech in the UK, whilst further afield there are chips from the company on the way to Spain, France, Germany, and further afield to China and Japan.
The chips cost between £70-£260 each. In the US, BioHax has already microchipped one company - Wisconsin-based Three Square Market.
BioHax, which has microchipped 4,000 people, mostly Swedes, is looking at an office in London at the moment, whilst working with the Swedish rail system to accomodate chips into its contactless payment system.
In China, RFID is being fitted to cars for similar reasons, and we'd expect it won't be far behind in chipping people too. μ
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