Microchip implant (human)

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For use in animals, see Microchip implant (animal).
A surgeon implants British scientist Dr Mark Gasson in his left hand with an RFID microchip (March 16 2009)

A human microchip implant is an identifying integrated circuit device or RFID transponder encased in silicate glass and implanted in the body of a human being. A subdermal implant typically contains a unique ID number that can be linked to information contained in an external database, such as personal identification, medical history, medications, allergies, and contact information.

Origins and development in academia[edit]

The first reported experiments with an RFID implant were carried out in 1998 by the British scientist Kevin Warwick.[1] His implant was used to open doors, switch on lights, and cause verbal output within a building. After nine days the implant was removed and has since been held in the Science Museum (London).[citation needed]

On 16 March 2009 British scientist Mark Gasson had an advanced glass capsule RFID device surgically implanted into his left hand. In April 2010 Gasson's team demonstrated how a computer virus could wirelessly infect his implant and then be transmitted on to other systems.[2] Gasson reasoned that with implanted technology the separation between man and machine can become theoretical because the technology can be perceived by the human as being a part of their body. Because of this development in our understanding of what constitutes our body and its boundaries he became credited as being the first human infected by a computer virus. He has no plans to remove his implant.[3]


The hand of microchip implant expert Amal Graafstra, just after an operation to insert an RFID tag. The yellow coloration comes from iodine used to disinfect the hand for surgery.

Several hobbyists have placed RFID microchip implants into their hands or had them inserted by others.

Amal Graafstra, author of the book "RFID Toys", asked doctors to place implants in his hands. A cosmetic surgeon used a scalpel to place a microchip in his left hand, and his family doctor injected a chip into his right hand using a veterinary Avid injector kit. Graafstra uses the implants to open his home and car doors and to log on to his computer. With public interest growing, in 2013 he launched Dangerous Things where anyone can purchase appropriate RFIDs for implantation and can also make contact with professional partners for installation services.

Mikey Sklar had a chip implanted into his left hand and filmed the procedure.[4]

Jonathan Oxer self-implanted an RFID chip in his arm using a veterinary implantatinon tool.[5] He also filmed and has uploaded the procedure.

Martijn Wismeijer, Dutch creator of a bitcoin ATM, has placed an RFID in his hand to store his Bitcoin private key.[6]

Commercial implants[edit]

In 2002, the VeriChip Corporation (known as the "PositiveID Corporation" since November 2009) received preliminary approval from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to market its device in the U.S. within specific guidelines. The device received FDA approval in 2004, and was marketed under the name VeriChip or VeriMed. In 2007, it was revealed that similar implants may have caused cancer in hundreds of laboratory animals.[7] The revelation had a devastating impact on the company's stock price.[citation needed] Some time between May and July 2010, the Positive ID Corporation discontinued marketing the implantable human microchip.[8]

In January 2012, the VeriTeQ Acquisition Corporation acquired the VeriChip implantable microchip and related technologies, and Health Link personal health record from PositiveID Corporation. VeriTeQ is majority owned and led by Scott R. Silverman, former Chairman and CEO of PositiveID and VeriChip Corporation. PositiveID has retained an ownership interest in VeriTeQ.[9]

Medical records use[edit]

The PositiveID Corporation (previously known as The VeriChip Corporation; Applied Digital Solutions, Inc.; and The Digital Angel Corporation) distributed the implantable chip known as the VeriChip or VeriMed until the product was discontinued in the second quarter of 2010. The company had suggested that the implant could be used to retrieve medical information in the event of an emergency, as follows: Each VeriChip implant contained a 16-digit ID number. This number was transmitted when a hand-held VeriChip scanner is passed within a few inches of the implant. Participating hospitals and emergency workers would enter this number into a secure page on the VeriChip Corporation's website to access medical information that the patient had previously stored on file with the company.

According to some reports, in 2006 80 hospitals had agreed to own a VeriChip scanner provided by the company and 232 doctors had agreed to inject the devices into patients who requested them.[10] However, the VeriChip Corporation/Applied Digital Solutions was sued by its shareholders for making "materially false and misleading statements" regarding hospital acceptance figures. According to Glancy & Binkow, the law firm that filed the class action suit:

"...on May 9, 2002, defendants [the then Applied Digital Corporation] claimed that nearly every major hospital in the West Palm Beach, Florida area would be equipped with VeriChip scanners, an indispensable component of the Company's VeriChip technology. However, one day later on May 10, 2002, the truth was disclosed that no hospital had accepted a scanner, an essential device for retrieving the VeriChip's information. Following the May 10, 2002, disclosure, the price of Applied Digital stock again fell sharply, dropping nearly 30% in a single day."[11]

Building access and security[edit]

The VeriChip Corporation has marketed the implant as a way to restrict access to secure facilities such as power plants. Microchip scanners would be installed at entrances so locks only work for persons whose chip numbers are entered into the system. Two employees of CityWatcher, an Ohio video surveillance company, had RFID tags injected into their arms in 2007. The workers needed the implants to access the company's secure video tape room, as documented in USA Today.[12] The company closed, but there is no word on what happened to the employees or their implants.

A major drawback for such systems is the relative ease with which the 16-digit ID number contained in a chip implant can be obtained and cloned using a hand-held device, a problem that has been demonstrated publicly by security researcher Jonathan Westhues[13] and documented in the May 2006 issue of Wired magazine,[14] among other places.

  • The Baja Beach Club, a nightclub in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, once used VeriChip implants for identifying VIP guests.[15]
  • The Epicenter in Stockholm, Sweden is using RFID implants for employees to operate security doors, copiers, and pay for lunch.[16]

Possible future applications[edit]

Theoretically, a GPS-enabled chip could one day make it possible for individuals to be physically located by latitude, longitude, altitude, speed, and direction of movement. Such implantable GPS devices are not technically feasible at this time. However, if widely deployed at some future point, implantable GPS devices could conceivably allow authorities to locate missing persons and/or fugitives and those who fled from a crime scene. Critics contend, however, that the technology could lead to political repression as governments could use implants to track and persecute human rights activists, labor activists, civil dissidents, and political opponents; criminals and domestic abusers could use them to stalk and harass their victims; slaveholders could use them to prevent captives from escaping; and child abusers could use them to locate and abduct children.

Another suggested application for a tracking implant, discussed in 2008 by the legislature of Indonesia's Irian Jaya would be to monitor the activities of persons infected with HIV, aimed at reducing their chances of infecting other people.[17][18] The microchipping section was not, however, included into the final version of the provincial HIV/AIDS Handling bylaw passed by the legislature in December 2008.[19] With current technology, this would not be workable anyway, since there is no implantable device on the market with GPS tracking capability.

Since modern payment methods rely upon RFID/NFC, it is thought that implantable microchips, if they were to ever become popular in use, would form a part of the cashless society.[20] Verichip implants have already been used in nightclubs such as the Baja club for such a purpose, allowing patrons to purchase drinks with their implantable microchip.

Potential problems[edit]


In a self-published report[21] anti-RFID advocate Katherine Albrecht, who refers to RFID devices as "spy chips", cites veterinary and toxicological studies carried out from 1996 to 2006 which found lab rodents injected with microchips as an incidental part of unrelated experiments and dogs implanted with identification microchips sometimes developed cancerous tumors at the injection site (subcutaneous sarcomas) as evidence of a human implantation risk.[22] However, the link between foreign-body tumorigenesis in lab animals and implantation in humans has been publicly refuted as erroneous and misleading[23] and the report's author has been taken to task over "provocative" language "not based in scientific fact".[24] Notably, none of the studies cited specifically set out to investigate the cancer risk of implanted microchips and so none of the studies had a control group of animals that did not get implanted. While the issue is considered worthy of further investigation, one of the studies cited cautioned "Blind leaps from the detection of tumors to the prediction of human health risk should be avoided".[25]

Other medical complications[edit]

According to the FDA, implantation of the VeriChip poses potential medical downsides.[26] Electrical hazards, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) incompatibility, adverse tissue reaction, and migration of the implanted transponder are just a few of the potential risks associated with the Verichip ID implant device, according to an October 12, 2004 letter issued by the FDA.[27]

According to the FDA's Primer on Medical Device Interactions with Magnetic Resonance Imaging Systems, "electrical currents may be induced in conductive metal implants that can cause potentially severe patient burns."

However, when the MythBusters TV show, in episode 18 of the 2005 season, Myth Evolution, tested a microchip implant in an MRI machine, neither test subject showed any signs of pain. Since MRI machines come in various strengths, it is possible that higher energy-emitting MRI machines may be more problematic. The model and make of the chip could affect possible outcomes as well.

Security risks[edit]

Since nearly all implantable microchips are unencrypted, they are extremely vulnerable to being read by third-party scanners. By scanning secretly, someone could steal the information on a chip and clone the signal, enabling that person to impersonate a chipped individual. This could create security problems for building or computer access or potentially enable criminal misuse of a medical account held by an unrelated person. Also, the chip could easily[clarification needed] be removed from the person, or the appendage containing the device could be removed.[10] The Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs (CEJA) of the American Medical Association published a report in 2007 alleging that RFID implanted chips may compromise privacy because there is no assurance that the information contained in the chip can be properly protected.[28]

Surgery Risk[edit]

While some chips are single write only many modern chips in use have the ability to change the information they carry. So risks with older generation chips such as having to remove and re-implant a new chip to change the information are no longer an issue.

Societal and religious criticism[edit]

Microchip implant in humans have raised new ethical discussions by academic groups,[29] human rights organizations, government departments and religious groups.


In Christianity, some believe the implantation of chips may be the fulfillment of the prophecy of the Mark of the Beast, said to be a requirement for buying and selling,[30] and a key element of the Book of Revelation.[31][32]

And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

— Revelation 13:16-17, King James Version Bible


Following Wisconsin and North Dakota,[33] California issued Senate Bill 362 in 2007, which makes it illegal to force a person to have a microchip implanted, and provide for an assessment of civil penalties against violators of the bill.[33]

On April 5, 2010, the Georgia Senate passed Senate Bill 235 that prohibits forced microchip implants in humans and that would make it a misdemeanor for anyone to require them, including employers.[34] The bill would allow voluntary microchip implants, as long as they are performed by a physician and regulated by the Georgia Composite Medical Board. The House did not take up the measure. California, North Dakota and Wisconsin already ban mandatory microchip implant.[citation needed]

On February 10, 2010 Virginia's House of Delegates also passed a bill that forbids companies from forcing their employees to be implanted with tracking devices.[35]

Washington State House Bill 1142-2009-10 orders a study using implanted radio frequency identification or other similar technology to electronically monitor sex offenders and other felons.[36]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Is human chip implant wave of the future?". CNN. January 13, 1999. Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  2. ^ Gasson, M. N. (2010). "Human Enhancement: Could you become infected with a computer virus?". 2010 IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society. p. 61. doi:10.1109/ISTAS.2010.5514651. ISBN 978-1-4244-7777-7. 
  3. ^ http://www.personal.reading.ac.uk/~sis04mng/research/ FAQ: Could you become infected with a computer virus?
  4. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w2gKJeM6Ihw link Fox News Interviews Mikey Sklar
  5. ^ "Jondo the Mandroid is RFID enabled". 
  6. ^ Clark, Liat (November 11, 2014). "Hand-implanted NFC chips open this man's bitcoin wallet". Retrieved February 15, 2015. 
  7. ^ Lewan, Todd (September 8, 2007). "Chip Implants Linked to Animal Tumours". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-06-08. 
  8. ^ Edwards, Jim (July 15, 2010). "Down With the Chip: PositiveID Axes Its Scary Medical Records Implant". bNET. Retrieved 2010-07-17. 
  9. ^ "VeriTeQ Acquisition Corporation Acquires Implantable, FDA-Cleared VeriChip Technology and Health Link Personal Health Record from PositiveID Corporation". Business Wire. January 17, 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-14. 
  10. ^ a b Byles, Ileiren (2006). Health-care chips could get under your skin. Retrieved on 2006-10-28.
  11. ^ http://www.globenewswire.com/ca/news.html?d=28620 Glancy & Binkow LLP Filed the First Class Action Lawsuit Against Applied Digital Solutions, Inc. Based Upon Recent Events -- ADSXE
  12. ^ Lewan, Todd. USA Today. July 2007. "Microchips in humans spark privacy debate.".
  13. ^ Westhues, Jonathan. "Demo: Cloning a VeriChip." Demo: Cloning a VeriChip.
  14. ^ Newitz, Annalee (May 2006). "The RFID Hacking Underground". Wired. Retrieved July 13, 2011. 
  15. ^ http://www.baja.nl/vipform.aspx
  16. ^ Mearian, Lucas (February 6, 2015). "Office complex implants RFID chips in employees' hands". Computerworld. Retrieved February 15, 2015. 
  17. ^ "Indonesia's Papua plans to tag AIDS sufferers", Mon Nov 24, 2008.
  18. ^ Jason Tedjasukmana (Nov 26, 2008), "Papua Proposal: A Microchip to Track the HIV-Positive", Time 
  19. ^ Government Of Indonesian Province Rejects Plan To Implant Microchips In Some HIV-Positive People, 2008-12-08
  20. ^ "Cashless Society"
  21. ^ http://www.antichips.com/cancer/ Microchip-Induced Tumors in Laboratory Rodents and Dogs: A Review of the Literature 1990–2006
  22. ^ Lewan, Todd (September 8, 2007), "Chip Implants Linked to Animal Tumours", The Washington Post, retrieved 2010-06-08 
  23. ^ http://www.rfidjournal.com/articles/view?3609
  24. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CS13kFWQIYM#t=60m53s Tumours, Tracking, and Tyranny: The Downside to Implantable Microchip
  25. ^ Blanchard, K. T.; Barthel, C.; French, J. E.; Holden, H. E.; Moretz, R.; Pack, F. D.; Tennant, R. W.; Stoll, R. E. (1999). "Transponder-Induced Sarcoma in the Heterozygous p53+/- Mouse". Toxicologic Pathology 27 (5): 519. doi:10.1177/019262339902700505. 
  26. ^ http://www.spychips.com/press-releases/verichip-fda.html FDA LETTER RAISES QUESTIONS ABOUT VERICHIP SAFETY, DATA SECURITY: Implantable RFID device "poses potential risks to health"
  27. ^ http://www.spychips.com/devices/verichip-fda-report.html CASPIAN Special Report, October 19, 2004: FDA Letter Raises Questions about VeriChip Safety, Data Security
  28. ^ CEJA of the American Medical Association, CEJA Report 5-A-07, Radio Frequency ID Devices in Humans, presented by Robert M. Sade, MD, Chair. 2007
  29. ^ Ethical Assessment of Implantable Brain Chips, by Ellen M. McGee and G. Q. Maguire, Jr., Boston University
  30. ^ "Revelation 14:9-11". Bible Gateway. Retrieved 2010-07-03. 
  31. ^ Albrecht, Katherine; McIntyre, Liz (2006-01-31). The Spychips Threat: Why Christians Should Resist RFID and Electronic Surveillance. Nelson Current. ISBN 1-59555-021-6. 
  32. ^ Baard, Mark (2006-06-06). "RFID: Sign of the (End) Times?". Wired.com. Retrieved 2009-10-13. 
  33. ^ a b California Bans Forced RFID Tagging of Humans, Government Technology website, October 17, 2007
  34. ^ http://votesmart.org/bill/10786/28834/ban-on-required-human-microchip-implantation#.U49ngS_O63U
  35. ^ Virginia delegates pass bill banning chip implants as ‘mark of the beast’, The Raw Story , By Daniel Tencer Wednesday, February 10th, 2010 retrieved April 23, 2010
  36. ^ HB 1142-2009-10 to study requiring the use of implanted RFID in certain felons.

Further reading[edit]

  • Haag, Stephen; Cummings, Maeve,; McCubbrey, Donald (2004). Management Information Systems for the Information Age (4th ed.). New York City, New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-281947-2. 
  • Albrecht, Katherine; McIntyre, Liz (2005). Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track your Every Move with RFID (1st ed.). Nashville, Tennessee: Nelson Current. ISBN 1-59555-020-8. 
  • Graafstra, Amal (2004). [1] RFID Toys: 11 Cool Projects for Home, Office and Entertainment (4th ed.). New York City, New York: (ExtremeTech) Ziff Davis Publishing Holdings Inc. ISBN 0-471-77196-1.  External link in |title= (help)

External links[edit]