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AdamTheTech
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Microchips, Plastic, and Tank Tops

Please be aware that this entry is over two years old. Therefore, it may contain broken links, outdated information, or views and content which are no longer completely valid.

The “Kudos & Calamities” column was the brainchild of its original co-authors, AdamTheTech and Tyler Thompson. The idea behind the column was to be able to alternate authors every week who each tackle an interesting personal topic or news headline related to technology. The column was inherited by PCM members Kram and Ryan Passey, and was eventually retired as PCM evolved into more of a blogging format.

Japan is experimenting with hardware implants. Neat idea, and I’m sure the benefits and the drawbacks will be debated ’till kingdom come, but this one comment caught my eye:

“The whole idea of integrating the human body and computers to make cyborgs is fabulous, and I’d even be one of the first in line for an eye modification or hearing augmentation, but there are a lot of problems associated with this type of operation. If everyone connected via a wireless connection we would really need a personal firewall, not just for our home networks but our own bodies.”

That’s certainly something to think about. A personal firewall for not only our computers, but for ourselves? So not only could people be susceptible to colds and viruses, but to computer viruses as well. Scenarios that were often attributed to Sci-Fi don’t seem so far-fetched anymore…

So, will we become versions of the Six Million Dollar Man, or will we just become advanced enough where when we get up in the morning, we’ll have to run a systems check along side brushing our teeth? Or, better yet, will we have to flush out our system every day to get rid of all the spyware, somewhat like a Listerine mouthwash?

Returning back down to earth a little bit, RFID chips are really the main topic of discussion. Basically, Radio Frequency IDentification chips (or tags) contain small amounts of static data on a microchip. This microchip is then attached to a small antenna so that the RFID signal can be read and respond to a radio frequency transponder. A more in-depth explanation of this technology can be found on Wikipedia.

There is a lot of controversy about the use of RFID tags. Security, privacy, and yes, even religious arguments all arise. Like credit cards, these things will have the potential to keep track of your purchases, plus keeping track of where people go, how long they stay, and who they visit. If you’ve seen the movie “Minority Report”, there’s a scene in a shopping mall that scans the crowd and displays ads geared towards the individual’s shopping habits, as well as grabbing the person’s attention by calling them by name. Talk about contextual advertising. It would drive me nuts if every billboard, poster and flier shouted out my name and called me to buy the newest brand-name clothes, a ticket for a movie, or a special brand of silky smooth toilet paper.

Going along with the scene from “Minority Report”, the character in question was greeted then asked about a previous purchase he made by a store advertisement. The items in question? Assorted tank tops. Personally, I’d rather not have my last purchase broadcasted all over the store. Nobody really needs to know what I bought the last time I entered the store. I’m sure that if I was out shopping with a couple of the guys, I’d get raised eyebrows at the mention of me purchasing assorted tank tops.

The other side of the argument is the offer of convenience and the benefits of target advertising. You only see advertisements for products that you would be interested in purchasing, thus would be interested enough in what the advertising billboard would be offering. This would be very beneficial for advertisers too. Their ads would mainly be seen by people who have interests in their type of product or brand-name.

The problem is that information used for target advertising can be used for profiling customers. Some people have no qualms about this practice, while others see it as an invasion of privacy. It’s not the point that most people “have nothing to hide”; it’s the principle of actually collecting information that nobody else really has any business knowing. Besides, all this data harvesting would certainly bring out a state of heightened “big brother” paranoia. There does come a point where you just have to shout out “TMI!

These days, it’s so common to use plastic to pay for goods and services that you don’t think twice about it. Most people don’t even realize the amount of information that is collected when you use a credit card. Your buying habits (the products you buy, plus determining if you’re a heavy spender, an impulsive buyer, or a moderate spender), your travel habits (raise your hand if you pay for airline tickets with a credit card; from that, determining the destination is fairly simple), your favorite restaurants (paid for the meal and tip with a credit card? Yep, it also shows what kind of tipper you are), and all sorts of other routines and spending habits.

It’s amazing to think about the number of things you pay with a credit card. With RFID tags entering the picture, there would be over ten times the amount of data collected on you. Sure, the technology has its benefits, as with any other technology, but there is just so much room for abuse. It would be best if guidelines for microchip implants were put into effect *before* the technology really goes mainstream. Otherwise, it’ll be a zoo out there.

And yes, for those who are wondering, I still like to pay with cash.

(Originally published on pcmech.com)