Barcodes and microchips could be found on nearly everything these days, but could humans be next?
American science fiction author Elizabeth Moon raised a few eyebrows last week when she revived the debate about whether it could be beneficial to place barcodes on babies at birth during an interview on a BBC radio program.
‘I would insist on every individual having a unique ID permanently attached — a barcode if you will — an implanted chip to provide an easy, fast inexpensive way to identify individuals,’ she said on a weekly show called The Forum, according to the New York Daily News.
According to Moon, aged 67, the tools that are currently used for the purposes of surveillance and identification, such as video cameras and DNA testing, are too slow and expensive.
Placing a barcode on each person at birth, in her opinion, would solve these problems.
While the technology is already in place, civil liberties advocates have decried past efforts to make ‘barcoding’ a reality, claiming that it would create an Orwellian society devoid of privacy where ‘Big Brother’ is always watching.
‘To have a record of everywhere you go and everything you do would be a frightening thing,’ Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, told the New York Daily News.
Even without the barcodes, governments have an ever-expanding array of tools at their disposal to track people. Since 2006, new U.S. passports include radio frequency identification tags (RFID) that store
all the information in the passport, as well as a digital picture of the owner.
In 2002, an implantable ID chip called VeriChip was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. When scanned, the chip could pull up a 16-digit number containing information about the user.
The program was scrapped in 2010 amid concerns about privacy and safety, but other companies have since come forward, offering similar products.
The biotech company MicroCHIPS has developed an implantable chip to deliver medicine to people on schedule and without injection, while the technology company BIOPTid has patented a non-invasive method of identification called the ‘human barcode.’
Advocates of futuristic identification methods say the barcode could help parents or caregivers keep track of children and the elderly.
Chips, they claim, could be used to easily access medical records, and would make going through security at airports and train stations more convenient to the travellers, who are now forced to stand on lines and go through scanners.
But in a world where no computer network is impenetrable, as it has been proven once again recently when a group of hackers known as Anonymous claimed responsibility for attacks on the U.S. Department of Justice and Indian government websites, critics are wondering, what would happen if someone could access your personal ID chip?
‘We can have security, we can have convenience, and we can have privacy,’ Stanley said. ‘We can have our cake and eat it too.’