Science fiction author Elizabeth Moon last week rekindled the debate on whether it's a good idea to "barcode" infants at birth in an interview on a BBC radio program. “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 said on The Forum, a weekly show that features "a global thinking" discussing a "radical, inspiring or controversial idea" for 60 seconds .
The proposal isn’t too far-fetched - it is already technically possible to "barcode" a human - but does it violate our rights to privacy? Opponents argue that giving up anonymity would cultivate an “Orwellian” society where all citizens can be tracked.
“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.
There are already, and increasingly, ways to electronically track people. Since 2006, new U.S. passports include radio frequency identification tags (RFID) that store all the information in the passport, plus a digital picture of the owner.
In 2002, an implantable ID chip called VeriChip was approved by the U.S. 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 containing information about the user. It was discontinued in 2010 amid concerns about privacy and safety. Still scientists and engineers have not given up on the idea.
Biotech company MicroCHIPS has developed an implantable chip to deliver medicine to people on schedule and without injection. And technology company BIOPTid has patented a noninvasive method of identification called the “human barcode.”
Advocates say electronic verification could help parents or caregivers keep track of children and the elderly. Chips could be used to easily access medical information, and would make going through security points more convenient, reports say.