I'm a Person - Not a Product

I know my Social Security Number by heart. That is because in college that was my student ID number. Exam grades were posted only with this number. This way a person’s identity wasn’t revealed.

It’s a good thing I memorized it. Now everyone seems to want to know it, or at least the last four digits. Financial and other institutions use it as a verification of one’s identity.

Can someone steal your identity? The Federal Trade Commission at consumer.gov/idtheft/ defines identity theft as when someone uses your personal information such as your name, Social Security number, credit card number or other identifying information, without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes. The FTC says that people whose identities have been stolen can spend months or years and money trying to clean up the mess thieves have made of their good name and credit record. Meanwhile, victims may lose job opportunities, be refused loans, education, housing or cars, or even get arrested for crimes they didn't commit! According to the Identity Theft Resource Center at idtheftcenter.org nationally an estimated 7 million consumers became victims of identity theft during 2002.

Applied Digital Solutions Company at adsx.com is pushing a new idea for protecting one’s identity — VeriChip. What is it? A miniaturized, implantable under the skin radio frequency device (RFID) about the size of the point of a ballpoint pen. The device contains a unique verification number. How does it work? An external scanner sends radio frequency energy that passes through the skin and energizes the dormant VeriChip. Then the chip emits a radio frequency signal containing the verification number. This number is displayed on the scanner and sent to a secure data storage site through the Internet or by telephone that returns whatever information is stored under that number, such as the identity of the number holder. Now if you think this is still a little futuristic you can even now locate an "Authorized VeriChip Center" near you. At present only eight states have such a center.

Normally a doctor needs to insert the chip in the fleshy part of the upper arm. With a preassembled chip inserter, "there is very little discomfort — less than ‘getting a shot,’" claims ADS. They are promoting VeriChip as "a universal means of identification."

Wal-Mart has mandated to its top 100 suppliers to have all their cases and pallets "chipped" by January 1, 2005 using RFID technology. However, it might take as long as ten years for RFID tags to become inexpensive enough to put on individual items in stores. The latter would mean that barcodes would cease to exist. No more scanning individual items. All the items in your shopping cart would transmit by radio what they are and how much they cost. Already, some people have been concerned about privacy. Couldn’t someone employ the same scanner out in the parking lot to track what people are buying as they come out of the store? This issue has already been answered by making the RFIDs work only once.

The reason why I mention Wal-Mart is that it seems to me RFID tagging of people is like barcoding people — treating them like "products" instead of people. And it really doesn’t solve identity theft. Why? First, if a device can be implanted it can also be removed. Now I would rather have a credit card stolen than someone cutting a chip out of my arm! Second, this identification number is not secure. People will see it who scan it. Possibly thieves will use a similar scanning device to activate the implanted RFID to reveal its hidden number. And the computers that store the information will most certainly be targeted by hackers.

Now if all that isn’t enough, what about this same technology being turned against the RFID wearer. Being radio tagged opens up the ability of being "tracked." Guess what. ADS offers VeriTrack, "designed to track, monitor and protect all assets within an organization or company, including people." Oh, and did I forget to mention VeriPay, a secure, subdermal RFID payment technology for cash and credit transactions? Why carry around that credit card when you can have it embedded under your skin?

Now there are some good uses of this technology. For instance, people with known serious health conditions would benefit by having an embedded chip. If they are unconscious, medical technicians with scanners would have instant access to their health problems. However, everyone being tagged with this technology could be a major "Big Brother" watching over you problem. And if cash transactions are ever eliminated, combining tracking, purchasing and identification with an embedded chip makes any kind of individual privacy cease to exist. I’ll stick to identity cards, credit cards and cash — at least they won’t stick to me!

For this month’s web picks I would like to consider End-of-Life Issues websites. (Having just attended a seminar on this topic, it was interesting to note that the Hemlock Society has changed its name to "End-of-Life Choices." Sound familiar? Kind of rhymes with Pro-Choice. And it doesn’t have that nasty ring of Suicide Society or Poison Society. They are very active in Florida where I reside trying to get assisted suicide passed and telling people on their website how to kill themselves.)

One such issue is assisted suicide, euthanasia, mercy killing. The USCCB has some interesting information on this topic at usccb.org/prolife/issues/euthanas/index.htm.

The Florida Catholic Conference of Bishops has put together a webpage entitled End-of-Life Decisions at flacathconf.org/Issuesinfo/Endoflife/End-of-LifeIndex.htm that is an informational resource for pastors, health care ministers, caregivers, and others.

An eye opening site put together by the National Right to Life Committee at euthanasia.com contains tons of information on this topic.

The International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide at internationaltaskforce.org addresses those issues as well as disability rights, pain control and much more.

CURE — Citizens United Resisting Euthanasia at http://mysite.verizon.net/cureltd/index.html is America’s oldest network solely devoted to combating euthanasia. CURE’s grassroots advocacy defends the rights of every person to receive medical treatment, especially when care is critical.

Physicians for Compassionate Care at pccef.org affirm an ethic based on the principle that all human life is inherently valuable and that the physician's roles are to heal illness, alleviate suffering, and provide comfort for the sick and dying. PCCEF promotes compassionate care for severely ill patients without sanctioning or assisting their suicide. You might want to find such a physician in your area.

Many more links on this issue can be found in my online Euthanasia directory category at monksofadoration.org/euthanasc.html.

Brother John Raymond welcomes
e-mail at john@aplusconsultingnow.com.

He is author of Catholics on the Internet: 2000-2001,
Webmaster of www.monkofadoration.org