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Under Your Skin: Part One

WISH-TV | May 3, 2005

Identity theft, credit card fraud and invasion of personal privacy are growing problems that affect millions of people every year. One company claims it has the solution: a chip implanted under your skin to verify your identity.

Last October the Food and Drug Adminstration judged that Verichip is not considered a regulated medical device, so approval for the chip to be implanted in humans is not regulated by the government. That means it’s up to you. Are you ready to be chipped?

Not everyone News 8 with sounds thrilled about the futuristic idea.

“Absolutely not,” said Ava Sale.

“A total invasion of privacy,” said Wade Shanower.

“I wouldn't mind being one of the first ones to try it,” said Julie Beckner.

Your vision of the future of identity verification may resemble a scene from the film Minority Report, but does the future actually look more like a Verichip, a tiny chip about the width of a dime, which is implanted into your skin.

“Verichip is a unique positive verification of identification,” said Josh Alper of Access Systems International, a Chicago-based distributor of Applied Digital's Verichip. “Each chip has a unique code in it produced by the winding of the antenna inside the chip. It uses what is called passive RFID technology.”

It’s Radio Frequency ID Technology, and it’s passive because the chip sends out a radio frequency only when it's close to a scanner.

Like a human bar code, the scanner reads the chip's number, but this chip doesn't go in your pocket. It goes in your arm. “We would insert this under the skin and then move it forward and it would actually eject the chip under the skin,” said Alper.

“It would make me feel like an animal; you know how they do that for lost cats,” said Dana Veneck.

Some 30 million pets have been implanted with chips to bring owner and best friend back together again. FDA approval for human implantation was granted in October.

“There's new chipping centers being added everyday. There's more medical facilities that are adopting the chip and doing pilot programs,” said Alper.

“I've heard about some of this technology that's coming down. It sounds pretty interesting. One of the things they're looking at is health care,” said Beckner.

On the medical side, if some sort of medical mishap renders you unconscious, a doctor at the hospital could scan the chip in your arm connect to a medical database and retrieve your medical records.

But that isn’t the only application.

“Take a look at financial transactions, stock transactions, very large transfers of money, currency conversions,” said Alper. “You're going to see it in homeland security applications.”

Someday you may be able to pay with the swipe of your arm rather than the swipe of a credit card. “I think the ideas big brotherish to me,” said Shanower.

According to the folks with Verichip, it's more secure than fingerprints or retinal scans.

“There is a real aversion in this country to people reading their fingerprints into devices. It's well-founded. You have no control over that data once it's scanned in. They're actually copying it and storing it on the database,” said Alper.

Alper claims there's no way to falsify ID with the chip because it has to be present to be read. “Even if I knew the number of your chip, there's no way that I could reproduce that number inside a secure scanner. Seeing that number verifies positively that it's you.”

Most people we talked to don't argue that the system works, but is there danger in this verification? Is this the ID answer, or could the chip in your arm mean less privacy and security in your life? There is even a religious objection. We’ll have more on this controversial new device at 11:00 pm Monday.


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