To chip or not to chip – that is the question

Given the fact that, by age 90, two-thirds of us will have Alzheimer's or some other form of dementia, this is a good thing. The question is, what about other seniors?

VeriChip shown actual size next to a pennyOur fearless leader, Larry Dignan, wrote this morning to say VeriChip is launching a consumer campaign.

The chip was approved for use back in 2004 after many years of being used on animals. (The picture is from an MSNBC story on the approval.)

The campaign is being centered in South Florida, and there will be a lot of talk about linking the chips to personal health records.

In fact, tools like the VeriChip have been in use for years. First used to retrieve lost dogs and cats (but what if the mutt really hated you and wanted to leave?) it has since been pushed for Alzheimer's patients.

Given the fact that, by age 90, two-thirds of us will have Alzheimer's or some other form of dementia, this is a good thing. If you've ever lost an impaired loved one, you are likely to agree.

The question is, what about other seniors? Well, it depends:

  • How much memory on this chip? Enough to get my full health record on it? How about my allergies and basic condition?
  • How difficult is it to write to the chip? What about its security?
  • How common will readers be?
  • Who controls what gets written on the chip? Can it be hacked? Conversely, can it be accessed when needed?
  • Can the chip be cloned? (Clone me, Doctor Memory!)

Larry asks some other good questions, although there are some long-running controversies he doesn't address:

  1. Is this really the mark of the beast?
  2. Could the government use it to track and trap us?
  3. What if the chip insertion site gets infected? What if the chip moves?
  4. Could the VeriChip cause cancer?
  5. Is this just a scam by former HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson?

Over the last four years an entire sub-culture has developed to attack the VeriChip. But the company is not backing down. If the present marketing effort succeeds the company is bound to push for chipping everyone, given the chance of violence or accidents in our society.

For now, I'll continue to wear clean underwear for that risk, reserving RFID for the toothpaste at Wal-Mart.

But that could change.