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A microchip with loads of information about me implanted in my hand? Er, I'm going to give this idea the thumbs down

A small chip implant between thumb and forefinger can be used like a bank’s swipe card
A small chip implant between thumb and forefinger can be used like a bank’s swipe card

By Kerry McLean

I was 22 years old and working in Glasgow when one of my best friends from university called to offer me a job. Cath was and still is a big dote and the first person I met at uni. As I walked into our halls of residence, weighted down with bags, suitcases and a fear of leaving home, up came Cath with a massive big smile, a hug and an offer to help and we were firm friends from that moment.

A few years on and despite living more than 500 miles apart, we were still in almost daily contact. I had landed a job in the newsroom of a radio station and maths graduate Cath had been poached by an American company looking to open an office in London.

Cath explained that it was a business based on this new-fangled thing, the internet and the idea was that people looking for information or answers to their questions would type their queries into their web page and be redirected by them.

I couldn't get my head around that. I mean, how would you make money from finding facts or addresses for people?

Sure, wasn't that what the Yellow Pages and encyclopedias were for? So I ignored her advice to jump on board and instead turned down her offer to come and work at the company which had the strange name 'Google'...

More than 20 years on and Cath is no longer with that company but has had a wonderful, exciting life working first in London and in later years, Silicon Valley.

Of course, my early doubts about the lasting appeal of search engines have been proved wrong but there are still new technologies being introduced that I think I'll skip, thanks very much.

Like the relatively new practice of being microchipped by your company. It sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie but it's honestly true.

A small chip is inserted into the soft, squidgy skin between your thumb and forefinger and you can use it in your place of work in exactly the same way you use a contactless bank card.

You just swipe your hand in front of a vending machine or canteen till to pay for food and drink. You do the same thing to unlock doors or even to fill in passwords on computers.

You can also store lots of information on it in case of a medical emergency, everything from previous ailments to next of kin contact details can be discovered in seconds once the chip is scanned.

It all sounds very handy and helpful, but I can't get over the thought that there's something quite unsavoury about it.

The technology is already being utilised in some workplaces. For example, in two test hospitals in America they're using it to measure how often doctors and nurses wash their hands. In the fight against MRSA and other transferable bugs I get the idea behind it. Small bonuses and rewards are offered to the medical staff who always hit their target but my fear would be that at some stage the offer of a carrot could easily be replaced with the threat of a stick.

It's not much of a stretch to imagine it being rolled out to monitor all sorts of employee behaviour.

As a knackered, middle-aged mum-of-three it's not as if I'm fearful of being discovered doing something I shouldn't. Believe me, I have neither the time nor energy to be involved in any industrial subterfuge. It's the notion of being monitored and followed like a child that sits uneasily with me.

As somebody who works at the cutting edge of all that's new I asked Cath what she thought of being microchipped. It turns out that they introduced it at her very forward-thinking office at the start of this year.

Again, it's on a voluntary basis with employees but Cath said that she thought most of the younger, newer members of staff had signed up, some out of real curiosity but some because they feel it's what expected of them.

And as for Cath? Well, she's yet to be convinced and says that until the privacy and security of the information stored on the chip is improved, she'll pass.

Advice I'll definitely follow this time…

Belfast Telegraph


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