May 18, 2006
VERICHIP INJECTS ITSELF INTO IMMIGRATION
Scott Silverman, Chairman of the Board of VeriChip Corporation, has alarmed civil libertarians by promoting the company's subcutaneous human tracking device as a way to identify immigrants and guest workers. He appeared on the Fox News Channel earlier this week, the morning after President Bush called for high-tech measures to clamp down on Mexican immigrants.
Privacy advocates Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre are warning that a government-sanctioned chipping program such as that suggested by Silverman could quickly be expanded to include U.S. citizens, as well.
The VeriChip is a glass encapsulated Radio Frequency Identification tag that is injected into the flesh to uniquely number and identify people. The tag can be read silently and invisibly by radio waves from up to a foot or more away, right through clothing. The highly controversial device is also being marketed as a way to access secure areas, link to medical records, and serve as a payment device when associated with a credit card.
"Makers of VeriChip have been planning for this day. They've lost millions of dollars trying to sell their invasive product to North America, and now they see an opportunity in the desperation of the people of Latin America," Albrecht observes.
VeriChip's Silverman bandied about the idea of chipping foreigners on national television Tuesday, emboldened by the Bush Administration call to know "who is in our country and why they are here." He told Fox & Friends that the VeriChip could be used to register guest workers, verify their identities as they cross the border, and "be used for enforcement purposes at the employer level." He added, "We have talked to many people in Washington about using it...."
Silverman is reportedly also planning to share his vision on CNBC's Squawk Box if a slot opens up tomorrow (Friday) morning sometime between 6 and 9 AM Eastern Time. He was originally scheduled to appear on the show this morning, but technical problems at the Florida studio prevented his appearance.
The numbering and chipping of people seems like a plot from a dystopian novel, but the company has gotten the buy-in from highly placed current and former government officials, including Columbian President Alvaro Uribe. He reportedly told Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) that he would consider having microchips implanted into Colombian workers before they are permitted to enter the United States to work on a seasonal basis.
"The mantra 'chip the foreigners' has little appeal once people realize the company wants to stamp its 'electronic tattoo' into every one of us," cautions McIntyre. "Electronically branding and tracking visitors like cattle is VeriChip's excuse to get the government on board. But if that happens, we'll all be in their sights."
Tommy Thompson, former Secretary of Health and Human Services joined the board of VeriChip Corporation after leaving his Bush administration cabinet post. Shortly thereafter, he went on national television recommending that all Americans get chipped as a way to link to their medical records. He also suggested the VeriChip could replace military dog tags, and a spokesman boasted that the company had been in talks with the Pentagon.
Privacy advocates warn that once people are numbered with a remotely readable RFID tag like the VeriChip, they can be tracked. Once they can be tracked, they can be monitored and controlled.
Albrecht and McIntyre, the authors of "Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track Your Every Move with RFID" believe the world's people will stand firm against chipping. "Our country was founded on principles of freedom and liberty. We're betting that the American people will see the end game and buck VeriChip's attempts," said Albrecht. "We also believe the people of Latin America will rise up in opposition once they read our book."
The Spanish language version of "Spychips"
will be hitting shelves across Latin America next month.
>> click here for a transcript of the Fox interview with Scott Silverman
ABOUT THE BOOK
"Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track your Every Move with RFID" (Nelson Current) was released in October 2005. Already in its fifth printing, "Spychips" is the winner of the 2006 Lysander Spooner Award for Advancing the Literature of Liberty and has received wide critical acclaim. Authored by Harvard doctoral researcher Katherine Albrecht and former bank examiner Liz McIntyre, the book is meticulously researched, drawing on patent documents, corporate source materials, conference proceedings, and firsthand interviews to paint a convincing -- and frightening -- picture of the threat posed by RFID.
Despite its hundreds of footnotes and academic-level accuracy, the book remains lively and readable according to critics, who have called it a "techno-thriller" and "a masterpiece of technocriticism."
The Spanish-language version of Spychips,
titled "Chips Espias," will be available in bookstores in the Americas
and Spain starting June 6, 2006.