By Mark Hallum
A bill to be introduced in the state Senate would prohibit companies from planting microchips in employees as a condition of employment.
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) announced the bill Sept. 21 as a way of protecting workers from health complications which could arise from having an electrical device implanted in an employee as well as questions of privacy and ethics. Several states have already enacted laws to bar companies that wish to use what is known as Radio Frequency ID Devices, or RFID technology, to link personnel to office security and electronic equipment.
“As New York remains an at-will employment state, employers could make these implants mandatory as a condition of employment,” Avella said. “No employee should be forced to sacrifice their bodily autonomy as a prerequisite to obtaining or keeping their employment. Several states across the country have already enacted laws to prohibit this practice, and it is imperative that New York join these states in ensuring that the bodily integrity of our citizens is not violated.”
Three Square Market, based in River Falls, Wisc., was one of the first tech companies to announce it would be installing RFID chips in employees, speaking of the benefits to security and employee convenience, while also believing it kept them one step ahead of the competition.
“We foresee the use of RFID technology to drive everything from making purchases in our office break room market, opening doors, use of copy machines, logging into our office computers, unlocking phones, sharing business cards, storing medical/health information, and used as payment at other RFID terminals,” Three Square Market CEO Todd Westby said. “Eventually, this technology will become standardized, allowing you to use this as your passport, public transit, all purchasing opportunities, etc.”
But physicians have taken a more skeptical view of the use of these chips in the medical field alone.
According to a report from the American Medical Association, RFID may have benefits in the medical field and “represents another promising development in information technology, but also raises important ethical, legal and social issues. Specifically, the use of RFID labeling in humans for medical purposes may improve patient safety, but also may pose some physical risks, compromise patient privacy, or present other social hazards.”
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall