Thursday, October 21, 2004

FDA Approves VeriChip RFID Implant


FDA Approves VeriChip RFID Implant for Health Care Use
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The Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of an implantable computer chip for health care information applications. VeriChip is a radio frequency identification (RFID) device about the size of a grain of rice. Each chip contains a unique verification number that is revealed by passing a scanner over the chip. This unique number in turn links to a medical record (blood type, patient's allergies, prior treatments, etc.) stored on a database. The chip manufacturer claims that the chip, by disclosing a patient's medical information to doctors with a RFID reader, could save lives and limit injuries from errors in medical treatment. The company promotes the chip as a universal means of identification, and expects the device to be used in a variety of applications including financial and transportation security, residential and commercial building access, military and government security.

Although the RFID tag in the VeriChip is passive at this stage of the technology -- which makes it impossible for current RFID readers to scan the chip from more than a few feet away -- quick progress in the technology could soon make a chip active. This would enable the chip to spontaneously broadcast radio waves, allowing for human tracking on a permanent basis without requiring the presence of a scanner. The chips have already been used in recent years for non-medical purposes.

Once implanted, a VericChip could threaten an individual's right to privacy if she is not able to remove the chip or prevent further scanning of the chip. Indeed, The director of the Office of Device Evaluation at the FDA Center for Devices and Radiological Health told the Privacy Times (Vol. 24 Number 19, Oct. 20, 2004) that "by agreeing to have the chip implanted, the understanding would be that a patient has tacitly agreed to make information [stored in the VeriChip] available to someone with a reader." She added that the potential for unauthorized medical records access "is an issue."

Although no regulation currently exists in the United States to restrict potential abuses of the chip, the European Union and a few other countries around the world already have rules or guidelines in place that apply basic data protection principles to any collection and use of information through the use of RFID technology. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission recently acknowledged that it would have jurisdiction over unfair or deceptive practices that involve the use of RFID tags, particularly in cases where a companyinvolved in tag scanning does not comply with its posted privacy policy.

For more information about VeriChip, see EPIC's VeriChip Page

For more information about radio frequency identification, see EPIC's
RFID Page
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posted by RealitySEO at 9:18 PM

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