I don't know whether you caught this story, but at least two companies are now implanting RFID chips tracking subcutaneously--under the skin--of their employees. The chips perform like key-cards/credit cards, allowing access to areas in the facility and automatically charging employees for cafeteria purchases.

In both cases, the companies pioneering this technology are insisting that employee participation is voluntary. However, as I pointed out in my column The 10 Dumb Lies That Lousy Bosses Tell, the phrase "your participation is voluntary" actually means "your participation is mandatory."

In every corporate culture that I've examined (and I've examined over a hundred), failure to participate in "voluntary" activities--like the yearly United Way drive or the "brown bag" lunchtime meeting--marks an employee as "not a team player" and becomes a permanent black mark on your record.

For example, according to a recent article in the New York Times, when Todd Westby, CEO of the Wisconsin-based tech firm Three Square Market, proposed subcutaneous implants for the company's employees,

"Much to my surprise, when we had our initial meeting to ask if this was something we wanted to look at doing, it was an overwhelming majority of people that said yes."

Westby may even have told his audience what he later told the Times, that "My whole family is being chipped -- my two sons, my wife and myself."

Now, try to imagine you're sitting in the meeting where the plan is announced and the CEO announces that his entire family is doing something and that it's a strategic direction for the entire company. Unless you're a complete, you know that there's only one right answer to the (ahem) request: "Sign me up, boss!"

And that's a shame, because of all the stupid ideas that make up the "Internet of Things" having a chip implant under your skin is beyond all doubt the most insanely idiotic.

While Westby points out that "your cellphone does 100 times more reporting of data than does an RFID chip," cellphones can be turned off. More importantly, even when turned on, cell phones are not easily hacked. While your cellphone may be gathering data, it usually possible to find out what data is being gathered.

That's not necessarily the case with an RFID chip. Just as hackers can access IoT devices like toys and baby monitors, it's highly likely that whatever rudimentary OS is built into the chip will be as full of holes as a cheap wedge of Swiss cheese.

Furthermore, a cellphone is usually the personal property of the employee and thus can be passworded against employer intrusion (although see below.)

Subcutaneous chip implants are the latest example of the erosion of privacy in the workplace.

Back in the day, companies weren't allowed to monitor your telephone calls, even if they were made on the office phone. Nor could they open mail that named you as the recipient, even if directed to the corporate address.

Today, however, employees have no right to privacy in the workplace. Companies can and do monitor everything that that their employees do. The lack of privacy extends even into your personal life.

Take your blood, for instance. Even though your blood, being part of your body, theoretically belongs to you, employers can draw the blood out of your body, run tests on it, and fire you if they don't like what they discover.

Social media is another example. Only a dozen states have passed laws forbidding employers to demand passwords for employee's social media accounts, and, even then, the "your participation is voluntary" ploy makes it difficult for employees to refuse.

Chip implants would make even that ploy unnecessary since they could be programmed (or hacked) to track and record your movements and wirelessly access your personal devices, log keystrokes, monitor web usage, and so forth.

If you think that the government is going to intervene and make these intrusions illegal, think again. While high tech firms have sometimes balked at data sharing, the U.S. government sees corporate monitoring as a reliable source for their own data collection and has probably already hacked into the corporate data sets they need to gather much of whatever they want.

This raises the inevitable question: what should I do if my place of employment implements "voluntary" chip implants?

The answer is simple: create what I call career security. As I explained in my most recent book, Business Without the Bullsh*t, this means always having at least three other job opportunities under active development.

Published on: Aug 16, 2017
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