A Swedish start-up called Epicenter is offering to implant its employees and start-up members with microchips that function as swipe cards, allowing them to open doors, operate equipment or buy food and drinks with a wave of the hand. While these microchips have been available for decades, the technology has never been implanted in humans on such a broad scale. “Epicenter and a handful of other companies are the first to make chip implants broadly available,” reports Associated Press. From the report: [A]s with most new technologies, it raises security and privacy issues. Although the chips are biologically safe, the data they generate can show how often employees come to work or what they buy. Unlike company swipe cards or smartphones, which can generate the same data, people cannot easily separate themselves from the chips. Epicenter, which is home to more than 100 companies and roughly 2,000 workers, began implanting workers in January 2015. Now, about 150 workers have the chips. A company based in Belgium also offers its employees such implants, and there are isolated cases around the world in which tech enthusiasts have tried them out in recent years. The small implants use near-field communication technology, or NFC, the same as in contactless credit cards or mobile payments. When activated by a reader a few inches away, a small amount of data flows between the two devices via electromagnetic waves. The implants are “passive,” meaning they contain information that other devices can read, but cannot read information themselves. Ben Libberton, a microbiologist at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute, says hackers could conceivably gain huge swaths of information from embedded microchips. The ethical dilemmas will become bigger the more sophisticated the microchips become. Epicenter workers stage monthly events where attendees can receive the implant.
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