Brave New World: Workers implanted with microchips

This is from a couple days ago but there might be some GMD luddites who missed it. A snack company that supplies office break-rooms is testing out surgically implanting microchips in their own employees’ hands as part of a voluntary experiment.

Three Square Market’s CEO Todd Westby says: “[…] the implanted microchip makes it easier for people to pay for items at work. Instead of looking for coins, cash or a credit card, they would only need to place their hand in front of a scanner and electronically pay for their item.”

Three Square Market is planning to sell the technology to other companies and has partnered with a Swedish firm, BioHax International, to make the chip, which uses Radio-Frequency Identification to electronically identify stored information and near-field communication, the same type of technology used to pay for items with mobile phone scans. BioHax International: Digitizing Evolution

CEO Todd Westby Three Square Market shown with micro- chip on shoulder
CEO Todd Westby of Three Square Market shown with micro- chip on shoulder

The company reports 50 employees have voluntarily agreed to the chip implant. For those worried about privacy, the company says the data coming from the chip is encrypted and cannot be tracked they say.

If you wonder, as I do,  why Three Square Market at $300.00 a chip is shelling out $15,000 to make it easier for 50 employees to buy their own company’s snacks, well, it turns out the chips also function as  electronic keys to open doors and as ID login for company computers. And although the chip will not, so they say, track Three Square employees, the data will doubtless provide a time stamped record of when and where  employees opened a door or logged on.

Three Square Market’s Face Book page brags that their vending kiosk service for businesses break-room clients offers “three square meals daily without ever leaving the building.” And while in the building,  a Three Square seeing eye is on them watching who is coming and going for snacks because: A camera is mounted in our market to protect against theft; if inventory is off, we can check our cameras to see if and whom left without paying.

Or check on “whom” was goofing off at the snack kiosk?  Privacy assurances aside, Three Squares Market looks like a perfect fit for normalizing a new wave of corporate “Big Brother” style employee tracking technology. You may not be chained to your desk, but really what you’ve got is a longer, seeing-eye leash.

4 thoughts on “Brave New World: Workers implanted with microchips

  1. At the the nuclear power plant in Illinois where I last served, there was the equivalent of a chip. It is a hand print. More data than a finger print. Your ID card was inserted into the reader and then your whole hand. They had to match. The technology is probably more advanced now.
    This system may be better than RFI chips since only voluntairly putting a hand into scanner gives a reading.

  2. One question: what is the company is offering for incentives to employees? It might not be a tangible incentive, like a bonus or time off or other privileges. It might be something intangible, like when a manager knows the employee has been chipped, the manager would likely consider that as evidence of “commitment” to the company, and result in enhanced evaluation results (including raises and promotions, or even retention in a layoff situation: “Ah, Roger has a chip, we’ll keep him and let Greg go.”).

    Then there’s the question of chip removal when an employee is laid off, fired, or finds a better job with a less surveillance-oriented employer.

    A longer, seeing-eye leash indeed.

    1. A company owned chip implant opens up a whole new area of workers rights and potential abuse at time when enforcement of existing laws to protect them are at an all time low.
      Governor Scott Walker in Three Square Market’s home state of Wisconsin is to say the least not a friend of workers rights.He referred to the states $7.25 min. wage as “lame” and doesn’t think it serves a purpose.

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