Wisconsin Company Implants Microchips in Employees

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Three Square Market, a Wisconsin-based “micro-market” manufacturer, will become the first company in the nation to implant microchips in its employees. The RFID chips will be inserted between the thumb and forefinger on workers’ hands, and allow cardless access to the building and to computers and printers, as well as enabling employees to purchase snacks in the breakroom.

The tagging is voluntary, and Three Square Market claims that it won’t be used for tracking workers — or be vulnerable to hacking.

“Unlike your cell phone that is trackable and traceable pretty much no matter where you are, this device is only readable if you’re within six inches of a proximity reader,” CEO Todd Westby told CNBC.

The odds of hacking are “nil to none,” he said, adding, “It is a very secure and safe device.”

Three Square Market, which owns the machines that read the microchips, has 80 employees. Over 50 have voluntarily agreed to be implanted with the chips in a companywide “chip party” on August 1. Westby reports that he and his family will also be chipped.

In a statement on the company’s website, Three Square Market says that, “For employees interested in the technology, but not the implant, they can place the microchip in an RFID wristband or an RFID/Near-Field Communication Smart Ring.”

Technological Convenience or Big Brother Watching Workers?

Voluntary or not, microchipping employees obviously raises some privacy concerns. For starters, there’s the fact that it’s always on.

“Do you want someone to know every time you enter or leave a room?” asked CNET senior editor Dan Ackerman. “There’s a degree of autonomy that’s lost with this, you know, person to person, one to one tracking. You can never leave it behind. You can’t really turn it off.”

The company says that the chip is not trackable and doesn’t have GPS capabilities. However, even the chip’s ability to log entry and exit from a building — or use of a breakroom — could come back to bite workers who might understandably forget that their movements are being tracked without the reminder of a keycard swipe.

Beyond that, microchipping workers is a slippery slope. What’s voluntary today at Three Square Market could become mandatory at another employer down the line. If enough employers got on board, the choice for workers would become: be chipped … or be unemployed.

Tell Us What You Think

Would you agree to have a microchip implanted in your body, if asked by your employer? We want to hear from you. Tell us your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.