Off the Line - Karen Haviland

Let’s arm ourselves with knowledge

Have you ever heard of RFIDs? RFID, or radio-frequency identification.

Everybody loves a good deal even if that good deal only means a five cent savings or a reduced charge. We take the deal and move on. Simple as that. Somehow it feels as if we have beaten the system, if only out of a lousy nickel. However, let’s not forget the old adage that reminds us that nothing is for free.

Have you ever heard of RFIDs? RFID, or radio-frequency identification. Without getting into a convoluted and burdensome explanation I will simply say that is a microchip. You budding scientists out there can sue me for the blasphemy but I’m only adhering to the KISS method (Keep It Simple, Stupid).

Anyway, microchips have been around for a long time. So long in fact, that they have become very much a part of our everyday lives. Microchips are in cell phones, debit and credit cards and even during automobile production in order to track that automobile’s progress on the assembly line.

Yup, they’re everywhere, whether we think about it or not. Oh, as of last year Canada also put the RFID to work by putting it on our passports. What that means is every time we cross the border, data about that crossing is collected and stored away. Don’t ask me where because I really can’t tell you.

Now, stop and think about that for a minute. While I have no objection whatsoever to defending our borders, there’s something inside of me which is a little bit squeamish about giving government too much information. Basically, we’re being tracked. By government.

Scary? It is to me! I’m not saying all RFIDs are bad. In fact, left in honest hands they are a good thing for our world. It smoothes the way for transactions and even in airports helps us get on our way easier than in Old School days when everything was processed by hand and not scanned.

RFIDs can be lifesaving. There is an RFID out there that is implanted into a person with diabetes. It’s a glucose monitoring chip. What a wonderful idea. And imagine how an implanted chip which has all your medical history might possibly save your life one day. If you can’t speak for yourself and explain your health issues to the health care professional treating you, the chip can (metaphorically speaking). Oh, and that specific chip falls under the realm of biometric technology.

According to , biometric technology is “used in the description of biometric systems (e.g. face recognition or iris recognition) relating to their fundamental function.”

It’s claimed that within years we will no longer have a need for credit cards, debit cards or even cash. All we will have to do is scan our fingerprint and the transaction is done. That’s all well and good until you stop to consider the implications of that if that technology was to fall into the wrong hands of a person possessed of pure evil intent. Or, a heavy-handed government intent on knowing all about its people.

Imagine how our lives would change and the destruction that could be had should such a scenario unfold.

Yeah, I realize this column is starting to sound like George Orwell’s novel, 1984, in which pervasive government surveillance, and subsequent public exploitation make for a threatening and scary read, but it’s something to consider. In order to protect ourselves from such threats, as far-fetched as it might seem to some of you, we must ensure that strong legislation is in place to protect against the very thing we all dread – government spying.

I’m not saying throw the baby out with the bathwater. Far from it. Let’s instead arm ourselves with knowledge. Should the time come when we are offered an implanted chip, for whatever the reason, nor no matter how good the idea sounds at the time, let’s seriously consider if that’s something we want.


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