A View from Erika Jonietz

Medical ID Under Your Skin

Applied Digital Solutions, the Florida company that has stirred so much debate over its implantable ID chips, announced yesterday that it has received clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to market the chips as a means to provide…

  • October 14, 2004

Applied Digital Solutions, the Florida company that has stirred so much debate over its implantable ID chips, announced yesterday that it has received clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to market the chips as a means to provide easy access to individual medical records.

The New York Times reports that the chips, about the size of a grain of rice and injected under the skin, would not contain actual medical records, but a unique 16-digit number. Doctors or nurses would use that number to retrieve information such blood type, drug allergies, and other critical data stored in computers.

The idea is that the chips could save lives and limit injuries from errors in medical treatment by giving emergency-room personnel and ambulance crews immediate access to information on even unconscious patients. Of course, you have to entrust your medical data to Applied Digital Solutions in order to ensure that any healthcare worker anywhere would have access to the information.

To me, this is more worrisome than concerns raised by privacy advocates concerned about the technology’s spread to other applications and conspiracy theorists worried about being tracked via satellite (the tags don’t emit any radio waves, so that’s impossible at the moment). Still, there are civil liberties issues raised by the technology, and I think that Scott Silverman, the company’s CEO, was a bit naive in telling the Times he thought that FDA approval would help overcome ‘the creepy factor.’ Just because the chips are medically safe and technically secure doesn’t mean they’re not creepy.

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