“Human barcode” could organise society, erode privacy and civil liberties

Science fiction writer Elizabeth Moon has rekindled the debate over whether it's a good idea to "barcode" infants at birth. In a BBC radio interview she says: "I would insist on every individual having a unique ID permanently attached — a barcode if you will — an implanted chip to provide an easy, fast inexpensive way to identify individuals." She argued the tools used most commonly used for surveillance and identification -- such as DNA testing and video cameras -- are costly, slow and often ineffective.

Opponents say giving up anonymity would give rise to an "Orwellian" society where all citizens can be tracked. “To have a record of everywhere you go and everything you do would be a frightening thing,” Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Daily News. He warned of a “check-point society” where everyone is implanted with an internal passport and has to show their papers at every turn, he said. “Once we let the government and businesses go down the road of nosing around in our lives... we’re going to quickly lose all our privacy,” said Stanley.

In 2002, an implantable ID chip called VeriChip was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. The chip could be implanted in a person's arm, and when scanned, could pull up a 16 digit ID number with information about the user. It was discontinued in 2010 due to safety and privacy concerns. Engineers and scientists have not given up on the idea. ~ New York Daily News, Jun 1

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