Employee monitoring gone rouge: We will remember 2017 as the year it became OK for companies to microchip their employees.

by Jennifer Sigler | Aug 9, 2016 | Workhappy Blog

Microchip with your morning coffee at the office, anyone?

Privacy experts – and other human beings with common sense – were up in arms last week when Wisconsin-based Three Square Market began implanting its employees with rice-sized microchips. That’s right folks, because why just have digital devices when you can become one?

We here at The UpWrite Group are afraid of needles, let alone the thought of being cut open to make room for a radio-frequency identification device between our thumb and forefinger.

But is the outrage really warranted? Isn’t this just the latest in a string of corporate violations that toe the line between employee monitoring and straight up stalking?

Lest you’ve forgotten — a year ago Inc.com published a piece highlighting various ways companies have been monitoring employees —including one company that sent a drone to monitor a few workers.

Nothing like Big Brother staring you down from the sky to make sure you whistle while you work. Technology is advancing at warp speed and laws are racing to catch up; companies have been utilizing the latest technologies for years in order to “better understand” their employees. Is that what this is? A company perk?

Maybe we are taking the RFIDing of employees too seriously. The chip is touted to be used for everything from opening doors, to logging into computers, to sharing business cards… because these things were so laborious before the debut of the RFID microchip. We have officially become a culture that will do anything to save ourselves a step.

According to a press release by Three Square Market, 32M CEO Todd Westby commented: “ We foresee the use of RFID technology to drive everything from making purchases in our office break room market, opening doors, use of copy machines, logging into our office computers, unlocking phones, sharing business cards, storing medical/health information, and used as payment at other RFID terminals. Eventually, this technology will become standardized allowing you to use this as your passport, public transit, all purchasing opportunities, etc.”

Remember when it was scary enough to think of having your identity stolen? Let’s take a moment to fully immerse in Westby’s world — one where I am carrying around my medical records and hordes of other highly personal information as I jog through the park or pick up a gallon of milk.

This world is just so great, until it’s not. Hacking has become so easy in the modern world that we now have to purchase RFID-protected wallets to protect our credit cards. (The part of us that is hypersensitive to the capitalist nature of our culture already imagines a whole new market of RFID-protective gloves.)

But does no one else feel the eminent uptick in kidnappings for chip harvesting? The clouded doom of a microchip black market?

Clearly 41 of 85 of Three Square Market aren’t worried at all, because they were voluntarily implanted on Tuesday at the company’s “chip party,” hosted at company headquarters in River Falls, Wisc.

The Chicago Tribune quoted 32M’s vice president of sales, Melissa Timmins as saying, “’I planned for the worst and it wasn’t bad at all. Just a little prick.’”

Glad to know that pain was the primary concern of this decision.

We are just a hop, skip and a brain implant away from M. T. Anderson’s Feed — a National Book Award finalist situated in a future society where people connect to the Internet via chips implanted in their brains. Any volunteers?

No need to be afraid of automation taking over. Soon, we will be the automatons.

Thanks, 32M. But we’ll sit this one out.

Jennifer Sigler is a Senior Writer with The UpWrite Group. Send a message to services@TheUpWriteGroup.com to see how she can help enhance your corporate or personal brand.

Pin It on Pinterest