Monday, February 27, 2006


BF: When Big Brother Gets Under Your Skin - Feb. 27

by Maureen Farrell -- Buzzflash

Liz McIntyre, co-author of Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track Your Every Move with RFID, and Communications Director for Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering (CASPIAN) has been at the fore of a campaign against the new Radio Frequency ID (RFID) technology, alongside CASPIAN founder and director and Spychips co-author Katherine Albrecht. In a Dec. 2005 interview in Mother Jones, Albrecht underscored deeper concerns, particularly now that former Bush administration official Tommy Thompson serves on the board of Applied Digital, the company that manufactures VeriChip.

Mother Jones: What's your take on the VeriChip Company and Tommy Thompson -- former Secretary of Health and Human Services under the Bush administration and now VeriChip Board member -- advocating more RFID technology for medical information?

Katherine Albrecht: It absolutely scares the heck out of me. In the last six months to a year, this company has really stepped up its efforts to get some powerful players behind it. The fact that people listen to this with a straight face is even more extraordinary to me. You've got Tommy Thompson talking about linking medical records with a chip implanted in your arm. You've got Senator Joe Biden in the Supreme Court confirmation hearings talking about implant chips to track people with a straight face. It's unbelievable how quickly we've gone from saying "Oh, that's pet chipping technology, we'll never put that in people" to people with a straight face suddenly talking about implanting chips into American citizens. Terrifying.

The Harvard-educated Albrecht, it should be pointed out, also believes that this technology relates to the "Mark of the Beast" referred to in the book of Revelation. "The Mark of the Beast, 666: a prophesy from 2000 years ago. How many people (know that) technological developments of the last 10 to 20 years could be combining to make the Mark of the Beast a reality, and possibly even in our lifetimes?" she asks in a video entitled On the Brink of the Mark.

Though religious convictions fuel her passion, Albrecht says privacy concerns extend beyond religious and political lines. "Regardless of whether your beliefs are progressive or conservative, socially or politically, everybody's got a reason to not want somebody spying on them," she told Mother Jones. "Whether you're afraid that Big Brother is going to take the form of an evil corporation or Big Brother is going to take the form of an evil government or take whatever form, everybody's got a reason to be concerned."

Not everyone sees something sinister looming behind this new technology, however.

RFID chips are currently being used to track everything from products to consumer trends to pets to medical histories. Mississippi morgue workers used RFID chips to inventory "unidentified remains" in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and more than 800 hospitals are currently using RFID technology to monitor infants in maternity wards. Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, N.J. has installed equipment to read medical information from implanted chips, while 68 other hospitals are poised to do the same.

Techdirt, the highly touted blog charged with "decoding tech news for the masses" has also pointed to this technology's benefits. "There's a crowd of folks who are extremely anti-RFID chips. They often raise important privacy issues, but they tend to go a bit overboard in their stance in that they rarely offer any kind of solution to RFID chips other than to ban them all completely. That's the wrong approach, since RFIDs can have real value, and many of the downsides can be solved with technology," wrote Mike on Techdirt's site. (Albrecht also concedes that RFID "is a great technology if you want to track things from point A to point B" but says that the benefits "absolutely pale in comparison to the risks that this technology poses").

Complete Buzzflash article.

Dave Haigler, Abilene, Texas
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