The prospect of being implanted with a chip by your employer may seem like the stuff of a dystopian nightmare, but it’s now a reality.
Swedish company Epicenter has begun implanting their workforce with microchips, but only if they’re willing. Unsurprisingly, not everyone is willing to let oneself effectively be transformed into a cyborg by their employer.
However, Epicenter is fully aware of people’s doubts. The company’s co-founder, Patrick Mesterton, has acknowledged that putting ‘things into your body’ is ‘quite a big step’, but that people already implant medical devices (such as pacemarkers) into their bodies.
The aim is for Epicenter’s implants to replace access and / or payment cards, allowing workers to make purchases and open doors with a move of their hand. The chips are no bigger than a grain of rice, small enough to be inserted into the space between one’s index finger and thumb without disruption.
Around 150 of Epicenter’s employees have agreed to be ‘chipped’, and that number’s only expected to grow in the near future. Meanwhile, Wisconsin-based Three Square Market has also equipped some of their workers with chips at no cost to the individual. This company’s chips perform the same function as Epicenter’s, enabling employees to open doors and pay for goods on-site in a more convenient way.
Given that this is an emerging technology, there are currently no real regulations in place in Europe or the States to dictate whether or not companies can do this. If employees are willing to undergo the process, should the state have the right to deny them their decision?
It’s a complex area. Businesses have GPS tracked employees’ activities and risked privacy-invasion in a number of ways already, and this is the next logical step.
Implanting workers with chips raises numerous advantages and disadvantages, all of which demand proper consideration if the technology is to become commonplace.
The Benefits of Implanting Employees with Chips
Having to carry payment cards and access cards can be cumbersome, and they’re incredibly easy to lose. Simply having a microchip inserted into your hand grants you the freedom to open doors, buy items, operate scanners / printers, and more without the burden of remembering physical objects (cards, fobs etc.).
GPS Tracking for Effective Management
Another benefit is that businesses may be able to equip their chips with GPS technology to monitor their workers’ location and activities. This can be a major help in numerous applications, such as delivery services or restaurant trades.
For example, a courier company that implants its employees with chips will be able to see where they are at any time, even when they are outside their vehicle (which may have a separate GPS tracker).
Any business following this practice could estimate delivery times and performance projections based on their worker’s specific location, without needing to communicate with them or wait until they’re back in their vehicle.
In the restaurant trade, implanted chips featuring GPS technology would let managers monitor waiters’ locations within the dining space. This would aid strategic placement of workers to ensure customers always have help on hand.
The Drawbacks of Implanting Employees with Chips
This is the biggest, most obvious potential drawback of implanting employees with chips.
We’re all concerned with the way in which businesses and organisations use our personal information today. The new GDPR taking effect across the EU places more power in the public’s hands over who gets to record their data and why.
However, the companies using chip implants are not known to track employees’ behaviour or location. The chips are in place purely to provide a cutting-edge alternative to swipe cards and fobs, rather than anything more sinister.
As the process catches on, though, businesses may well decide to integrate GPS tracking into their chips in the future. This offers the benefits explored in the previous section, but it does bring prospective problems too.
Employees have a right to personal privacy outside the office. A chip obviously stays with the worker at all times, and could theoretically record their every movement for the employer.
This would let managers know more about their workforce, potentially without consent. They may discover where they like to spend their evenings, whether they visit any businesses the company may disagree with (such as competitors), and more. It could even let them see whether ‘sick’ employees are actually heading to the mall when they should be sprawled on the couch.
Losing the Right to Choose
Another possible negative outcome of implanting workers with chips? That it would become an obligatory part of the job.
Though both Epicenter and Three Square Market operate their implantation schemes as voluntary, less-ethical businesses could place pressure on employees to undergo the procedure for the good of their career.
If an individual were to say they disliked the prospect of being ‘chipped’ when asked during their interview, this could reflect badly on their chances. The prospective employer might see this as reason enough not to hire them, and find an excuse to reject their application.
Some of these dangers may seem some way off, but technology has a way of advancing quickly. Tech-savvy businesses want to embrace emerging trends and get an edge over their competitors – and chips offer the power to do just that.
It’s vital that companies and organizations planning to incorporate chip implantation into their everyday processes have a strict protocol in place to protect workers’ rights. Employees should be aware of any data that is to be recorded, and provide fully-informed consent only.
Ethical enterprises can use chips, as well as potential GPS tracking technology or data-gathering, to their advantage. It’s essential that official regulations are put in place by governments to reduce the risks of this technology, for both the worker and the business alike.