Big brother tracks with microchips

By Megan Kutulis
October 2, 2008

Season 10 of the reality television show “Big Brother” premiered on July 13. The show, which puts contestants under one roof for two months, has literally hundreds of cameras tracking the participants.

Twenty-four hours a day, the cameras can track every action and locate every member of the show.

Although this reality show has entertained audiences for 10 seasons now, science’s newest development is making “Big Brother” an even bigger reality.

In 2004, the Food and Drug Administration approved the VeriChip, an implantable computer chip that would allow nearly anyone to be traceable.

The chip, which is about the size of a grain of rice and thinner than a toothpick, takes less than 20 minutes to implant and leaves no trace of the procedure.

Although the chip was approved four years ago, the reality of such a development didn’t sink in until about a year ago, when two employees of surveillance equipment supplier-had the chips implanted into their forearms.

Sophomore religious studies major Lisa Somers has mixed feelings about the situation.

“I don’t know; I guess it makes sense for people in medical situations, or kids maybe, but it’s pretty weird to think that no matter how unattainable you think you are at a certain time, you can always be tracked.”

Somers shares the thoughts of VeriChip and its co-creator, Applied Digital Co.

The chip, which contains a unique 16-digit number, only serves as a means to access medical information or entry to high-security areas, such as naval bases.

In fact, the VeriChip creators stress the idea that their product is not a tracking device.

While this may be true, the possibility of finding new purposes for the chip is likely. Alzheimers patients often wander away from their homes and families, as do young children.

The ability to track these individuals down might seem intrusive, except in cases like these. Sex offenders, illegal aliens and convicts are also potential targets for VeriChip implants.

Though the microchip development is still relatively new to the majority of Americans and scientists, some are already assuming the worst. The possibility of re-creating the scanners that would be used to read the information from these chips is a risk some aren’t willing to take.

If all the chips are placed in the same area, it makes it easier for an anonymous individual to create a scanner that could access the information available.

When asked if he would ever consider taking part in the microchip implantation, sophomore biotechnology major Robert Stoop is quick to say no way.

“Personally, no. I just see it being a bad idea. It could cause infections-being put under the skin. There are plenty of trackers that you can put in sneakers or attach to jewelry. I don’t think implanting a chip underneath your skin is worth the potential danger or lawsuits.”

However, one of VeriChip’s positive aspects is that the effort is relatively quick and painless. All participants receive an anesthetic and a hypothermic needle injects the chip underneath the skin. The chip is placed under the skin on the back of the arm. Stoop and others, remain unconvinced.

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Megan Kutulis

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