Letting Consumerism Get Under Your Skin

Have you been "chipped" yet?

A company called Applied Digital Solutions wants you to undergo a surgical procedure to implant a tiny RFID microchip in your arm. Why would you want to do this? Because "Radio Frequency ID" chips will eliminate the heavy burden of having to carry credit cards and remember your ATM numbers. Instead, your arm becomes your card and ID number -- simply run your arm under a scanner and your embedded radio chip sends a digital signal to the computer, allowing you to complete your transaction. ADS calls its microchip "VeriPay."

There's only one rational reason that ADS executives think we'll submit to this: They're insane. Insane, but serious. They insist that this technological leap is needed because many people lose their credit cards. "VeriPay solves that problem," says a corporate PR flak, cheerfully noting that ADS's chip "is sub dermal and very difficult to lose. You don't leave it sitting in the backseat of a taxi," he said.

Sub dermal or not, your ID number still can be stolen by a geeky thief who rigs up a device to intercept your radio-transmitted number, then plays it back later to your ATM machine, emptying your account.

If your number is stolen, or if you simply switch credit-card companies or banks, what are you to do? No problem says the PR guy: "If you don't want it anymore... you can go to a doctor and have it removed. I call it an opt-out feature," he said gaily. Swell, instead of simply calling your credit card company to cancel your card, you'd have to call a surgeon. This is progress?

Still, ADS is banking on you to "get chipped," as they cheerily put it in a special promotion. To lure you, they're even offering a $50 discount to the first 100,000 people who sign up.

By the way, the honchos of ADS are such business geniuses that the company's stock plummeted from $12 a share three years ago to about 40 cents today. I wouldn't entrust two bits to them -- much less my arm.


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