RFID Human Implant Controversy Roundup

Image: a VeriChip RFID implant, via.
The implantation if RFID chips in humans has been making the news quite a bit lately — most notably with last week’s California legislature passing a bill banning companies from requiring employees to have RFID chips surgically implanted. I had no idea there were companies doing this — and that it could even be remotely legal, though they are licensed by the federal government to do so. Other states have banned RFID implantation as well. Hopefully the CA bill will get signed into state law. One of the companies is a video surveillance company, snip:

“RFID is a minor miracle, with all sorts of good uses,” Simitian said. “But we shouldn’t condone forced ‘tagging’ of humans. It’s the ultimate invasion of privacy.”
Simitian said he fears that the devices could be compromised by persons with unauthorized scanners, facilitating identity theft and improper tracking and surveillance.
The bill has been approved by the state Assembly and now goes to the governor.
Nine senators opposed the measure, including Bob Margett (R-Arcadia), who said it is premature to legislate technology that has not yet proved to be a problem. “It sounded like it was a solution looking for a problem,” Margett said. “It didn’t seem like it was necessary.”
One company, VeriChip, has been licensed by the Food and Drug Administration to sell implanted identification devices, and about 2,000 people have had them implanted, Simitian said. A representative of the firm did not return calls seeking comment Thursday.
CityWatcher.com, a Cincinnati video surveillance company, has required employees who work in its secure data center to have a microchip implanted in an arm.
Similar technology has been used for years to help identify lost pets.

Link (via).
Well, we should certainly hope it gets passed, not just for “big brother” reasons, now that studies have come to light showing that RFID chips are producing malignant tumors in animals. This makes me worry about my cat (and about my friends who have experimented with “chipping” themselves). The studies are from the 1990s, and the FDA pretty much looked the ‘other way’ at the studies — now here’s the fucked up part. The FDA is overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services, whose head at the time of the RFID implant approval has since left to work at — you guessed it — an RFID implant company. Snip from a lengthy WaPo piece with tons of information about what looks like a gross coverup:

(…) While also warning that the chips could cause “adverse tissue reaction,” FDA made no reference to malignant growths in animal studies.
Did the agency review literature on microchip implants and animal cancer?
Dr. Katherine Albrecht, a privacy advocate and RFID expert, asked shortly after VeriChip’s approval what evidence the agency had reviewed. When FDA declined to provide information, she filed a Freedom of Information Act request. More than a year later, she received a letter stating there were no documents matching her request.
“The public relies on the FDA to evaluate all the data and make sure the devices it approves are safe,” she says, “but if they’re not doing that, who’s covering our backs?”
Late last year, Albrecht unearthed at the Harvard medical library three studies noting cancerous tumors in some chipped mice and rats, plus a reference in another study to a chipped dog with a tumor. She forwarded them to the AP, which subsequently found three additional mice studies with similar findings, plus another report of a chipped dog with a tumor.
Asked if it had taken these studies into account, the FDA said VeriChip documents were being kept confidential to protect trade secrets. After AP filed a FOIA request, the FDA made available for a phone interview Anthony Watson, who was in charge of the VeriChip approval process. (…)
(…) And what of former HHS secretary Thompson?
When asked what role, if any, he played in VeriChip’s approval, Thompson replied: “I had nothing to do with it. And if you look back at my record, you will find that there has never been any improprieties whatsoever.”
FDA’s Watson said: “I have no recollection of him being involved in it at all.” VeriChip Corp. declined comment.
Thompson vigorously campaigned for electronic medical records and healthcare technology both as governor of Wisconsin and at HHS. While in President Bush’s Cabinet, he formed a “medical innovation” task force that worked to partner FDA with companies developing medical information technologies.
At a “Medical Innovation Summit” on Oct. 20, 2004, Lester Crawford, the FDA’s acting commissioner, thanked the secretary for getting the agency “deeply involved in the use of new information technology to help prevent medication error.” One notable example he cited: “the implantable chips and scanners of the VeriChip system our agency approved last week.”
After leaving the Cabinet and joining the company board, Thompson received options on 166,667 shares of VeriChip Corp. stock, and options on an additional 100,000 shares of stock from its parent company, Applied Digital Solutions, according to SEC records. He also received $40,000 in cash in 2005 and again in 2006, the filings show.

Link (topic also seen @).

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