Read this quote like 67 times. It never gets less jaw-droppingly amazing:
"Members of Congress better wake up to the fact that the biggest threat to our liberty isn't Al-Qaeda, but technology."
This bit of neo-luddite wisdom was dropped on us (in Smart Money) by Rep. Marlin Schneider, a Wisconsin Democrat, who recently sponsored a successful state bill to ban forced implants of RFID chips on people. As the RFID Law Blog says:
"Thank god! There has been so much unauthorized surgical implantation going on in the United States, someone finally put their foot down regarding RFID chips."
Personally, we're just happy it's still okay to force Junior Mints into someone's body during an operation. But, really, why did Wisconsin feel the urgency to pass this law when there's never ever been an incident of "forced-chipping" in Wisconsin (let alone, anywhere)? Could it be politics? (The answer after the jump)...
The only authorized creator of implantable RFID tags in the U.S. is VeriChip. Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson is on VeriChip's board. Thompson is a Republican. Wisconsin's current governor is a Democrat. So is the American Hero who wrote the legislation. Voila.
Still, the legislation did pass unanimously. But, then again, who would be against it once it was introduced? It would be like voting against legislation that proclaimed that "puppies are nice."
More importantly, one need consider the environment that enabled the political gamesmanship and the "tech is the new terrorist" rhetoric. Again, from the RFID Law Blog:
"More troubling is that the reputation of RFID technology is such that politicians believe they need to ban the implantation of RFID chips under people's skin -- and are applauded for it. The RFID industry needs a far more organized, focused, proactive strategy to promote the responsible uses and benefits of their technology, before someone else defines it for them as something inherently dangerous or suspect."
Much of the rhetorical fire is fanned on by those who believe that RFID is the Mark of the Beast, but as the industry site RFID Update notes, it sure doesn't help when VeriChip's chairman moves off-message from discussing his chips life-saving medical applications to freelancing on how the chips might be used to track immigrants (hello, hot button):
"'Your industry is sick.' This was the opening line of an email received last week by RFID Update in reference to a televised interview on the Fox News Channel with VeriChip chairman Scott Silverman, who argues that implanting microchips in immigrants to the United States could be a viable solution to the immigration issue. By injecting (pardon the pun) his company's controversial RFID technology into the recently inflamed debate over illegal US immigration, Silverman single-handedly provided fodder that the anti-RFID crowd will draw on for months to come."
Needless to say, 99.99 percent of the RFID industry would prefer to focus on things that might actually happen with RFID and will reap big benefits for both businesses and consumers.
And, what about the positive uses of RFID technologies? Here's a start from a recent speech by Dr. Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation:
- Lower costs in the supply chain, enabling consumers to benefit from lower prices. For example, RFID could reduce standing inventories by 5 percent, warehouse labor by 7.5 percent, and theft by 1 percent of sales.
- Lead to faster time to shelves for new products and enable stores to better stock the products consumers want.
- Facilitate self-service checkout, cutting costs and boosting convenience.
- Reduce lost luggage in airports.
- Reduce counterfeit products, including in pharmaceuticals. For example, GlaxoSmithKline has started distributing HIV medicine tagged with RFID as a part of its
pilot project to help verify whether the medicine is authentic or fake.
- Improve safety in hospitals with RFID-enabled wristbands and RFID-tagged surgical markers.
- Help the elderly and persons with chronic illness to remain in their own homes through RF-enabled medical sensors.
- Transmit soil moisture data to enable more accurate agricultural irrigation.
- Improve travel and tourism. For example, Great Wolf Resorts has issued RFID wristbands to patrons at its resort in the Poconos to use for keyless room entry, food purchases, game tokens and other items, and for entering the water park.
- Boost public health. For example, China is testing an RFID system to assist in controlling avian flu.
- Help first responders in the case of emergency. For example, Japan intends to sprinkle disaster areas with RFID-tagged sensors that will form a mesh network to detect heat and vibration. The Japanese are also embedding tags in manhole covers so that in disaster situations first responders can easily get information about what's buried underground...
Just remember, people, when you turn on your computer, technology wins.