‘Chipping’ employees raises privacy concerns

A Wisconsin software firm has become the first U.S. company to offer employees the option of being microchipped. Three Square Market in River Falls, which writes code for vending machine applications, is providing injectable microchips that allow employees to open secure doors or log on to their computers.

The implanted chips—they’re optional for employees—provide services beyond the workplace as well, letting users encode credit cards, medical data and even passports.

The chips are similar to those that have been used for years to identify pets. About the size of a grain of rice, they are injected under the skin between the thumb and forefinger.

The technology was pioneered on people by a Swedish firm called Biohax, which has 150 chipped employees in Stockholm.

The microchip is a radio frequency identification device that allows people to be tracked in much the same way pets and packages currently are.

Of course, having a microchip injected into your hand is quite a commitment. Some Three Square Market employees are leery.

To promote the idea, the company recently held a “chip party” where those who were game had chips injected. (Yes, chips were served.)

Like the employer use of wearable technology, this kind of implanted technology raises privacy concerns. Even if data is used only for legitimate purposes, privacy advocates note that trackable means hackable, and the data could fall into the wrong hands.

Employer liability for such an event is unclear at this point. The law has been slow to catch up with wearable and implanted technology.

Wondering whether this idea would work in your organization?

Review any such plans with your attorney. Have a policy in place well before the technology is ready to be rolled out. Be prepared to answer employees’ questions about what data will be collected, how it will be used and safeguards that will protect the data from hacking.