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Rundles Wrap Up: Not Chipping In

The benefits and downsides to a life enveloped by technology


Modern technology isn’t anathema to me, in spite of what my children believe. My profession, journalism, was one of the first adopters of office-use computer technology, and I was on the World Wide Web right from the start, in dial-up access. I get technology, and I marvel at and use its many benefits both professionally and personally. I was a “truck chaser” for cable TV and, while it seems antiquated now, my office in the early 1980s was one of the first in the city to get a fax machine.

But I remain wary, and increasingly so. “This website wants to use your location …” Ah, no. Oh, and my smart phone already knows my location – not to mention the day and time – which is creepy. If I rent a car online, or whatever, I get a million ads for that type of service, not to mention emails and texts. There’s so much information, so much personal and invasive information, just roaming around out there in the “net” or the “cloud,” and it is obviously being shared in spite of assurances that it isn’t, that it just all gets creepier by the minute.

Not a day goes by when there isn’t a news story about another breach of information, another hack of data. From what you hear “they” – the government? the Russians? your bank? Google? – listen to your phone calls, read your texts and emails, and may even be looking in on you with the built-in cameras on computers, phones, even cars. “They” say it’s benevolent, even beneficial. But it’s still creepy.

It’s about to get even creepier.

A Wisconsin vending machine software company, Three Square Market, is beginning a test program to “chip” their employees, a la those microchips you can implant into your dog to aid in identifying a lost one. And apparently, the workers are sitting up and begging for it. According to reports I read, a small microchip, an RFID, or radio frequency ID, will be inserted in employees’ hands between their thumb and forefinger – painless, they say, and the company is magnanimously picking up the $300/each tab – to allow the workers to “open doors, pay for purchases, share business cards, store medical information, and login to their computers, all at the wave of a hand.”

A Swedish company, Epicenter, has apparently already done this and reports that its employees “love it.” Going forward, it is said, such technology can hold a person’s passport, and presumably their driver’s license, as well as be used for paying at a retail counter, or on public transportation, or wherever. I guess soon you can board an airplane by high-fiving the TSA agent, get cash at an ATM by waving at the camera, vote by a show of hands and pay your bills by tapping out “Happy Days Are Here Again” with your fingers. Talk about digital!

But “they” could also monitor every aspect of your life. Where you go, what you buy, what drugs you take, who you hang out with — everything. Like your car or your computer, you could easily be hacked — both cyber-ly and physically; your hand would be very valuable. The potential – the inevitability – for invasion of privacy is even greater than it already is.

I don’t know why, but when I heard about this, all I could think of was Santa Claus:

   He sees you when you’re sleeping  
   He knows when you’re awake

   He knows if you’ve been bad or good

   So be good for goodness sake!

And now, of course, Santa freaks me out – and I used to be him. I don’t want people to know if I’ve been naughty or nice – or where I am, or what I’m doing. Or how I vote.

Technology can be quite convenient, and I can see a day in the not-to-distant future when chipping employees – heck, chipping nearly everyone – will be as ubiquitous as smart phones are today. 

I’m not chipping in.

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Jeff Rundles

Jeff Rundles is a former editor of ColoradoBiz and a regular columnist. Email him at jrundles@cobizmag.com.

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