Human Microchipping

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Human Microchipping

Human microchipping is the practice of inserting a glass-encased transponder under the surface of the skin. These implants are already currently used widely to identify pets such as cats and dogs, and usually contain identifying information that can be scanned using radio frequency identification (RFID) or near field communication (NFC), both of which utilize radio waves. It is important to note these chips do not cause any harm to the pets. In humans, it is possible that these devices could be used in a wide variety of scenarios to increase ease of use for everything from accessing bank accounts to starting cars. While they are already quite popular in Sweden, where one train company recently experimented with microchips serving as tickets, there are several concerns with the security and ethicality of widespread human use.

How they work

RFID transponder microchips

An X-Ray image of an inserted microchip in a hand between the thumb and index finger, a common place for insertion.

RFID transponders are currently the most widely used. They contain an antenna and memory chip that stores a single unique identifying number that can only be read by specific radio scanners. [1] [2]Once brought into proximity, the scanner can read the identifying number and access a secure database where the individual’s information is then brought up. Notably, RFID microchips only work in one direction, where “data flows from the tags to the reading equipment”.[3] RFID chips are scannable at distances of up to 1500 feet, depending on whether they are active or passive tags. Active tags include a power source while passive tags do not. Most RFID chips implanted in humans are passive tags, as they are smaller, which have an effective range of a few feet. [4]

NFC microchips

While still a largely emerging technology, NFC microchips can be used for both one and two-way communication. In 2 way communication, the chip is able to send information to the scanning device beyond just an identification number. This can be utilized to quickly and rapidly share information and link devices. For example, a doctor could attach an NFC device to you that could, using your cellphone as an intermediate, give them real-time health data on you. NFC microchips have a scannable range of roughly 5 inches. A special 2-way communication method called peer-to-peer allows the user to pair the NFC chip with another device such as a smartphone. Once paired, this secondary device can then relay the information the NFC chip collects anywhere. It is worth noting that NFC microchips are currently seen as the “future” of human microchipping on account of their clear wider usability.[3]

Current applications

Medical records

The RFID microchips are widely used in the veterinary world to identify animals. The chip's unique ID number is often used to coordinate tests, medications, procedures, and billing to the specific animal. [5]

There have also been several companies that have attempted to apply these devices to human medical care, but as of now controversies and lack of proven safety have prevented widespread success. [5] It is possible these devices could be useful for patients suffering from neurodegenerative disorders such as Dementia or Alzheimers, as the chips would serve as a source of identification they could not lose.


Some offices around the world are giving their employees the opportunity to receive implants that would allow them to build access in the replacement of ID cards. [6] As of now, these programs are strictly voluntary. This technology can be applied in office spaces in comprehensive ways to ensure multiple layers of security. For example, a workers computer could also be linked to the microchip, only allowing it to turn on if the individual had scanned into the building earlier that day. This would increase privacy. It is also possible that the computers themselves could be outfitted with scanners.

Moreover, this technology has been researched in gun control measures, where the grip of the gun is embedded with a reader so only an approved individual with the correct identity could utilize the weapon. [6]

Implications of widespread use

Employer abuse

Amazon already tracks its warehouse employees whereabouts through an item hand scanner. These scanners are outfitted with GPS, and workers are expected to take them everywhere, even on break and to the bathroom.[7] Then, in 2018, Amazon won a patent for a wristband that can precisely track its worker’s locations and can even vibrate when they are not going in the correct direction.[8] These implants, it seems, would be a natural extension of this corporate tracking, one which would not be removable at the end of the day.

It is also important to note that these microchips are entirely reprogrammable even after they have been inserted. The concern is that companies could insert a microchip under some agreement, then reprogram it to track their employees round the clock. [9] They would then know things like every time an employee had called in sick and used the day to do something else, or if they slept in and that made them late for work. [10] Furthermore, it is relatively easy to install hidden RFID scanners in common places, and in this way, employers could check in on when their employees are at certain locations, even if they are unable to track them round the clock.

Additionally, there could be subtle discrimination occurring in the future against employees that refuse to have the microchips implanted. Employees that pass up on having microchips may then be passed up for promotions or other benefits. People could be hired or fired based on their willingness to embrace the technology. It is also possible to peer pressure or superior pressure could cause employees to agree to be implanted even if they do not truly consent for fear of retribution. [10] Companies such as amazon with shady ethical histories about employee pressuring are to engage in some of these acts, and some already are even without microchips. For example, in 2013 CVS launched a healthcare policy that forced employees to divulge sensitive self-information to their insurance or risk facing a fine of $600. [9]

An image from the patent application of Amazon's employee tracking wristband, demonstrating its ability to highly accurately track movements.

Corporate abuse

Already, companies are tracking individual's movements via cell phone, even if they say they aren’t, and putting that data up for sale. [11] Even more frightening is the possibility of companies providing an NFC microchip with more capabilities than they intend to use, and then later activating them. For example, a company could insert a microchip that they claim would only be used to unlock doors, but also includes biometric sensors, GPS capabilities, and with capabilities to access your credit card transaction history. The chip would go around, recording these aspects of your life, and the next time you entered the facility using it, all that information would be downloaded to their servers to build up a profile on you. Or, since it is relatively easy to set up hidden scanners all over the place, companies could do just that and get real-time updates on individuals. [9]

This is information that corporations should have no right to have access to, and is a huge violation of privacy, but could be the reality if the use of these microchips becomes widespread. The government could, for example, force all its employees to be implanted with microchips, and abuse them in similar way companies could.

Law enforcement

Local police departments could theoretically use the chips to do things like track when people are speeding and issue citations through the mail. If the government has access to people’s information such as this, , it could prove costly to many freedoms people take for granted. People could be implicated in crimes they did not commit simply because they happened to be in the area where the crime took place. Even if they are eventually found innocent, it could prove a huge financial and mental burden.

Parental use

Parents may force their offspring to be chipped and could track them wherever they go. This could prove to be both an unethical and unhealthy problem. For instance, once a child turns 18 do the parents still have a right to track their location? If the child no longer consents to parental tracking after 18, they may not be able to microchip themselves, or may attempt to without the help of a medical professional and harm themselves. Moreover, it is very important to consider how these cases would be handled with emancipated children, children being removed from unsafe homes, and orphans. There would have to be strict government outlines created on when children can begin to revoke consent over the tracking of their own bodies.

The Point

There thousands of other conceivable cases where microchips could be abused, and the limits on what can be incorporated into the technology is quite literally limitless. There is much discussion of the utility of these devices medically, but here there is a huge risk for abuse. Microchips Biotech is currently developing a device that could deliver regular doses of medication, but it is again possible that employers or the government could gain access to this information through the chips and learn about one's private medical history. [10] For example, if an implant had the ability to track hormones, it is possible that employers could learn someone is pregnant before the individual themselves is aware of it, and then take discriminatory action against that employee, and these technologies are only expanding. Currently, Three Square Chip developers are working on a device that would be able to continuously monitor an individuals vitals and then transmit this information. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Implants that can provide medication, include accurate GPS tracking, and replace credit or debit cards are all currently being tested. [12] If anyone is able to scan these chips, they could gain access to extremely private medical or monetary information.

What’s more, these implants are hackable, although not easily. Regardless, given the sensitivity of the information these microchips could hold, this is an extreme risk, and regardless of how secure companies claim the servers the hold the delicate information is, the Equifax data breach definitively demonstrated that almost any system is hackable.

The root of the problem here is consent. Employers, the government, and parents can coerce people into getting these implants even if they don’t want them. Although it is technically consent, people likely will not understand what they are really getting themselves into. This is the largest distinguishing factor between what microchips will do and what cell phones currently do: control and agency. Although their uses will undoubtedly overlap, it is far easier to manage what one’s cell phone knows about them, and if it really comes to it, one can elect to turn it off. [13] Microchips, on the other hand, remove this element of choice. There is no option to block a certain app from tracking you, no option to not send your data to the company, no option to turn it off, it is always on, and always watching.


  1. Brabant, Malcolm. “Microchipping Humans Wields Great Promise, but Does It Pose Greater Risk?” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 30 Jan. 2019,
  2. Heffernan, Kayla J. “Microchip Misconceptions - How They Really Work.” Medium, Medium, 30 May 2017,
  3. 3.0 3.1 Chandler, Nathan. “What's the Difference between RFID and NFC?” HowStuffWorks, HowStuffWorks, 7 Mar. 2012,
  4. Journal, RFID. “Ask The Experts Forum.” From What Distance Can RFID Tags Be Read? - Ask The Experts Forum - RFID Journal, 8 May 2013,
  5. 5.0 5.1 “Microchip Implant (Human).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 25 Mar. 2020,
  6. 6.0 6.1 Colgrass, Neal. “Office Inserts Microchips in Workers' Skin.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 2 Feb. 2015,
  7. Spitznagel, Eric. “Inside the Hellish Workday of an Amazon Warehouse Employee.” New York Post, New York Post, 15 July 2019,
  8. Solon, Olivia. “Amazon Patents Wristband That Tracks Warehouse Workers' Movements.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 1 Feb. 2018,
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Firfiray, Shainaz, and Organisation and Human Resource Management. “Microchip Implants Are Threatening Workers' Rights.” The Conversation, 22 Nov. 2018,
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Williams, Terri, and USA Today. “Implanting Microchips: Sign of Progress or Mark of the Beast?” Center for Digital Ethics & Policy, 15 Nov. 2017,
  11. Davies, Dave. “How Tech Companies Track Your Every Move And Put Your Data Up For Sale.” New Hampshire Public Radio, New Hampshire Public Radio, 3 Oct. 2019,
  12. Weiss, Haley. “Why You're Probably Getting a Microchip Implant Someday.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 21 Sept. 2018,
  13. Allen, Karma. “Microchip Implants Chart New Territory, but Some Experts Say They Are an Ethical Nightmare.” ABC News, ABC News Network, 3 Aug. 2017,