One in Three Americans Implanted with RFID’s? Not really

rfid spy eye
Via Depleted Cranium

First, a basic primer on what RFID’s are:

An RFID is a small computer chip which holds a very small amount of information, typically just a string of numbers, letters or other symbols.  The chip has a tiny radio transmitter in it, and when a reader is brought near it, it will broadcast that data so it can be read by the reading device, which contains a radio receiver.

rfid inventory_250pxImportantly, RFID’s are not self-powered.  They are far too tiny for any kind of battery capacity.  Instead, the RFID reader energizes the RFID with an electromagnetic field.  When the RFID is placed in the field, it becomes activated and transmits the code it contains.   As a result, RFID’s can’t be read from any substansial distance.   But they can be read even if they are covered, such as if they are on the inside of a box or embedded in an object.

They also do not have any actual computing power.  They can’t receive GPS signals or transmit data, because they lack sensors and receivers.  They simply spit out their internal code when energized.

RFID’s are therefore analogous to bar codes.  The major difference is that a barcode needs to be visible, on the outside of an item and reading it requires finding it and directing a scanner at it.  RFID’s have the advantage of working when obscured and of being readable by running the reader over an item, even if the exact location of the RFID is unknown.   They can therefore be used to inventory merchandise while it is still on the shelf or to track multiple items as they move through a system.  They can also be embedded in things like credit cards or security passes, allowing them to be used by just holding them near a reader.

rfid finger_250pxRFID’s can also be implanted.  A typical RFID implant is about the size and shape of a grain of rice.  It contains the chip inside a biologically inert material which is shaped to allow it to be inserted through a very small incision or even injected with a thick needle.  A few individuals have chosen to have an RFID implanted as a way of accessing secure systems.  This works a lot like biometrics, but may be more robust.  When implanted with an RFID, an individual can do things like open locks and sign onto secure computers by just waving their hand infr0nt of a reader.  (Presuming, of course, that their hand is where it is implanted.)

This is rare, however.  Only a few people have RFID’s in their body and it’s largely just a way of being a super early-adopted.  It will earn you some definite nerd points.

Implantable RFID’s are common for pets, however.  The RFID acts as a tag that cannot be easily removed or lost.  Once implanted, the pet can be tracked back to its owner if it ever gets lost and is picked up by an animal shelter.  Animal shelters typically have RFID readers on site and will scan a dog or cat when they are found without identification.  If the animal has an RFID, then the unique code it carries is displayed on the reader.  This code can be used to find the owners in a database.

But what about mass implantation in people without their consent?

conspiracy-theory-alert_200pxThis is a common thread in conspiracy theories.  Some have claimed that the government (or some other evil organization) is planning on or has already begun putting RFID’s in the bodies of unsuspecting citizens.  Allegedly this is to track their movements and keep tabs on them.  Others claim it is part of a mind-control system.

Of course, despite claims that they can be used for realtime tracking, an RFID cannot be used for this at all.  As mentioned, it is only energized when it comes in close proximity to the receiver.  It could, however, be used to identify individuals when they entered certain areas which are equipped with readers for the RFID’s.

Arguably this could be done without RFID readers at all.  A simple fingerprint scanner and identify and individual from a database of fingerprints.  However, RFID’s would have the advantage of allowing it to be done more covertly, perhaps without the subjects knowledge.

There is no evidence that this has ever been done, however… or is there?

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