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Bill would nip microchips in humans

Scripps Howard News Service | January 28, 2007 
ALAN GATHRIGHT

DENVER -- For years, people have been implanting tiny microchips under their pet's skin so that if Rover's collar slips off, there's still a way to find him if he wanders away.

Now a state lawmaker has added a twist to that concept with a bill that would make it a misdemeanor for anyone to require two-legged critters to have a microchip implanted under their skin.

Under the bill, employers could not track workers' movements, for example.

Democratic Rep. Mary Hodge said she introduced it as a "proactive measure" at the urging of Adams County's head librarian. He fears that "microchipping" people could become the next Big Brother tactic of a federal government whose use of warrantless telephone eavesdropping and the Patriot Act in the war on terror has alarmed civil libertarians.

The bill is cracking up some Capitol pols.

"Is this a problem? Do we have gangs of post-apocalyptic 'Terminator'-style cyborgs roaming the streets of Colorado implanting citizens with microchips?" wisecracked Rob Fairbank, a former-representative-turned-political-consultant, in an e-mail to statehouse pals.

"One of my legislator friends said, 'If we can't implant microchips on people, how will we know when the black helicopters arrive?' " joked Fairbank, a Littleton Republican.

Michael Sawyer isn't laughing.

He's the library director for the Rangeview Library District in Adams County who urged Hodge to nip the microchipping in the bud.

"I think it's a very scary thing," Sawyer said Wednesday. "I have been very concerned about the direction our government is going. I see the secret courts and I see the Patriot Act and the advocating of putting microchips in people."

Sawyer was referring to Tommy Thompson, the former Wisconsin governor and Bush administration health secretary, who became an advocate of the implants after joining the board of device maker VeriChip Corp.

Supporters like Thompson say implanting the rice-grain-size gadgets in patients could allow doctors to quickly retrieve vital information from someone who has dementia, or is unconscious or unable to speak during medical emergencies.

The tiny glass capsule - called a radio frequency identification device, or RFID - can be injected into the upper arm or hand and sits passively until it's read by a scanner.

The fear is that employers could use the chips to track workers as they pass through security-door scanners - like internal versions of the electronic pass keys many employees use to get around the office.

In fact, the president of Colombia suggested using implants to track migrant workers entering the United States. And a Wisconsin lawmaker unsuccessfully pushed for using them to track sex offenders - or kids "at the direction of their parents," according to a Wisconsin legislative report.

Last May, Wisconsin became the first state to ban forced implantation of the chips on humans, imposing a $10,000 fine for each day of violation. At least 17 other states have introduced or are considering microchip-implant laws.

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