I cannot get over the notion of RFID staples — even if the whole thing is a hoax — and the idea you can track paper and people via such a tiny piece of steel.
Can you imagine all the uses of RFID staples if you assume there are proper monitoring stations that can read the tiny transmitters?

You’d never lose another report. The paper you seek would self-identify
where it is hiding in the stacks of junk in your office.
You can track employees. Give them an RFID staple and you can learn
their patterns of behavior throughout the day and night without their
You can staple more than paper.

You could staple clothing. Or an
earlobe. Or a laptop. Or money.
RFID is currently used to invisibly track products being shipped into
and out of ports and loading docks across the world — but what is the
most valuable cargo of all? Human cargo. Human trade. Human movement.
Would you be bothered if someone was tracking you via RFID staple
without your knowledge?
If you had the opportunity to track the movement and the place of a
person or a thing using RFID staples, would you?

If someone offered you a permanent non-staple RFID implant in your arm
so you could be found at all times, would you accept that chip or not?
Will all infants one day be implanted with some sort of tracking device
that will tell everyone — not just the government — who they are,
where they’re going and where they’ve been?

Would you want that mandatory implant to have the capacity to
involuntarily incapacitate? If the implant were reading troublesome
brainwaves, or if the body were moving in an unseemly and aggressive
manner, would you object to having that body automatically shut down
via implant until the body’s electricity fell below danger thresholds?


  1. David,
    I think this idea is really creepy and I am not for it at all, even for small children.

  2. Emily!
    You work in banking. Don’t you think that sliver of the economy will be one of the first to adopt RFID tracking of assets — both human and monetary? Would you quit if you were told you’d be tracked at both work and home?
    Would you implant an RFID chip in your dog that would ID him if he ran away?
    If you had a child who was uncontrollable in anger or who had some kind of self-destructive behavior — would you want to be able to “flip a switch” to put the child in a safer state where no harm could be done to you, others or to their own body?

  3. David,
    I, of course, immediately recognized the benefits financial institutions could enjoy through RFID tracking of monetary instruments and certain types of documentation.
    As far as my opinion of an employer tracking its employees through some type of device, I would not shudder too much at the idea of being tracked via a wearable device while at work. I would even be open to wearing it while traveling for bank business. But implanting a device to be tracked by my employer 24/7? Absolutely not.
    Brutus is already implanted with a microchip that houses my information so that he may be easier to return to me if he were lost. This system is not fool-proof, however; it depends on the person finding the dog actually taking him to a vet who has the equipment to read the microchip. There are three problems with this: not all people who find a lost dog are knowledgeable about the possible existence of a microchip within the dog, not all vets have the necessary equipment to read that microchip, and not all people who find a lost dog (especially one as perfect as my baby Brutus :mrgreen: ) are willing to give the dog back. Even so, I still had the chip implanted just to be on the safe side.
    And besides, Brutus would never run away! He loves his momma too much! 😉
    I have to admit that I would pay very good money to implant Brutus with an RFID chip, but I would not implant my children with one. The difference is simple: you leash dogs, not people.
    I would also be against the idea of controlling a person’s behavior–even if that behavior was very destructive or potentially dangerous–through the RFID chip. This sounds like a more extreme breed of the parents who just give their child Ritalin or similar drugs to “calm them down” instead of constructively dealing with the how’s and why’s of their child’s behavior.

  4. Hi Emily —
    Aren’t leashes for safety? Isn’t part of the problem with parenting today is that many do not want to be bother being tied to their children? Don’t children deserve more leashing and closer attachment to their parents than dogs to their masters?
    You make an interesting point about medicating children with ADHD and the like because, unlike the implant, you can’t turn medication on and off. There are lingering affects and side-annoyances that can wound or even kill. Isn’t it better to momentarily interrupt mistaken electrical signals in the brain and muscles than to numb down the entire body in perpetuity?

  5. Hi David,
    My RFID brain implant must have been giving off signals because I was thinking it would have been nice to have some sort of system that could have shocked the VT shooter before he could do any damage.
    These RFID considerations already come into play if anyone regularly uses a toll road that has electronic toll collection facilities.
    This is an interesting subject to me personally because the Indiana Toll Road will start using the EZ-Pass system in May. I already have an EZ-Pass transponder through the Illinois Toll Road Authority.
    A RFID dilemma comes into play. The Indiana I-Zoom will give me a discount on the Indiana Toll Road, but the Illinois I-Pass won’t get the same discount.
    Should I let the office buy the second RFID EZ-Pass and have the ability to track me as I use it, or should I buy it myself like I did the I-Pass and turn in the statements for reimbursement, but pay up front for my tolls?

  6. Hi Chris!
    Yes, I’m wondering the same thing! If we had the ability to turn off a heinous act before anyone is hurt, that might be a wonderful lifesaver. I prefer quick intervention — in some Gods-like manner — and then getting out instead of an ongoing dampening of expectation and tempering with cogent and self-responsible free will.
    I vote — YOU PAY UP FRONT TO KEEP YOUR PRIVACY — work already subsumes our minds, don’t let them have your body, too! 😀

  7. David,
    Um. Um. I’m going to run away now! :mrgreen:
    You ask some really tough questions, David. Surely a more involved and more intent parenting style is absolutely necessary, but scarcely found, today. But, again, I think the RFID implant is such an extreme solution, way beyond an appropriately watchful eye.
    You also bring up a good point about the abundance of lingering side effects with medication (something I will discuss in my next article) not being an issue with the implant. Still, is a temporary interruption of bad behavior really the solution? Surely this does nothing to eradicate the behavior or provide the person with any kind of therapy. Perhaps it should be used only as an absolute last resort?

  8. No thank you – not now, not ever, not in me.
    Maybe there should be one put in every gun/weapon manufactured/sold everywhere in the world though?

  9. Emily —
    I’ve always wondered about the competing RFID systems for animals. Is there any temptation to purchase and implant them all just to cover all your bases?
    I understand you object to implantation in infants. How do you feel about GPS trackers in cellular phones? Parents can track their kids via GPS now. Isn’t that the same sort of monitoring — but less secure and more exploitable — than implanted tracking devices? Why not take the extra step to ensure the whole-body safety of children in the world today?
    I think bad behavior can be modified over time — but the bad impulse, the moment brainwaves go crazy in troublesome ways that cause harm to others, are harder outsiders to predict and prevent with therapy and medication.
    A behavioral implant, however, that can monitor, and “shock the mind” back into a neutral state — much the same way a pacemaker for the heart works and surgically implanted brain electrodes help quell epileptic seizures — might go a long way to remotely and independently monitor and prevent the rogue and harmful impulse. I think those behavior implants will be on our horizon much sooner than later and I’m betting the first implants will be involuntarily placed in the body by a government seeking to protect the Homeland.

  10. Hi Nicola!
    How would you feel about implanting the homicidally mentally ill and convicted felons? That way we could monitor their movements and remotely act to stop them much better than a parole officer or a police officer ever could.
    I do like the idea of tracking all guns and perhaps even giving them a limited lifetime of firings and to limit the amount of firings in a certain timeframe. Perhaps 9 shots at a time and then locking the gun for an hour with a lifetime of 900 shots overall before the gun melts in the hand.

  11. Now this is interesting:

    California’s state Senate has struck a major blow against the enemies of mankind in the inevitable war against The Machines.
    Legislation approved Monday would prohibit public schools from requiring the implementation of radio-wave devices that broadcast students’ personal identification and monitor their movement around campus — information the mechanical horrors could theoretically use to turn our children into livestock….
    In 2005, a small elementary and middle school in Sutter, California, attempted to implement an RFID program, but was promptly shut down amongst complaints by parents and a swarm of media attention.
    Since then, public opinion has further soured for mandatory RFID child-monitoring, and no California schools have attempted a similar policy. With such policy clearly amounting to political suicide, the state’s Senate pounced for the easy kill and approved the legislation.


  12. I think they need to be locked up and stay locked up.
    It is one thing for someone with full mental capacity to choose to be implanted – there are serious issues with consent with the mentally ill.

  13. Nicola —
    But we both know they don’t stay locked up! They get out and blend back into society. Then what? Implant them or handguns for us all?
    I agree the care of the criminally mentally ill is a difficult topic, but in many ways our role in their lives commands we take extraordinary steps to help prevent them from evil and harm.
    What is your take on therapy and therapists? Are they know-it-alls or know-nothings? As someone crasser than me said long ago, “You can’t spell ‘therapist’ without ‘rapist.'” I always thought that was an eerie take on the job.

  14. Hi David,
    I’m going to purchase my own I-Zoom. That way, if I go to Chicago on the weekend, I won’t have to worry about reimbursing the office or paying out of pocket and not getting the discount offered to I-Zoom users.
    What do you think about RFID enabled credit cards that will soon be sent to all Americans sooner or later? Could someone track us as we wander around just by sending radio frequencies to our credit cards?
    We might not have to be implanted for RFID tags to travel with us when they are attached to our water bottles, cellular phones, and other items we purchase. When we buy the item with a credit card or check, our account information could be associated with the RFID tag which could be detected whenever the proper radio frequency (13.56 MHz) is directed toward the tag from a RFID reader.
    But don’t worry. Nobody will make any homebrew RFID readers because they won’t want to infringe the patents.

    Guess what? Radio frequency identification tags are insecure. But don’t demonstrate the technology’s problems at a security conference.

  15. Hi Chris!
    Yes, it’s good to protect your privacy for as long as you can because it won’t last much longer. We’ll be watched and tracked everywhere we go from now on.
    I don’t like RFID in anything! I don’t think it’s a secure form factor for carrying private information. There are too many ways to exploit the “always on” state of the chip!
    You’re right that everything we buy will be trackable and then traceable later. There will soon be RFID ink that will be there, broadcasting everything it knows to the world and we won’t be any wiser and there won’t be any RFID tag to remove because the RFID technology will be “of the product.”
    Ha! Can you imagine how easy RFID readers will become in the future! Half the people hanging around bus stops and train platforms will be “listeners” waiting to read your entire life broadcasting from your body!

  16. I think we need to make sure they stay locked up. Life should mean life be it in prison or in suitable secure mental institutions. Better still find a cure! I wonder if it is a case for gene study ?
    There are some treatments that have been tried and have been shown to work in experimental situations – certain aversion therapies – unfortunately the Human Rights legislation forbade further study and implementation. Think of Clockwork Orange and substitute music with the worst smell imaginable – one that makes you violently ill and you are not far off the mark.
    I am not sure what the current success rate is for currently available therapies. I would think that would depend on the problem and the skills of the therapist.
    “You can’t spell ‘therapist’ without ‘rapist.’” – a very eerie take indeed.

  17. You make some excellent points, Nicola!
    There is a vein here in the USA where some feel Freudian-type psychotherapy is really just a cover for the expression of lonely people.
    I read a study comparing those who had been in weekly therapy for years and those who took medication instead and the “recovery rate” for feeling better and getting on with one’s life was substantially higher in the meds-only study because, the article argued, depression is a chemical imbalance that needs to be treated with chemicals and not the expression and exploration of feelings.
    One friend claims therapy chat sessions and group therapy are places where you go to pay to have someone listen to your problems because you don’t have any real friends who care enough to listen. That too, I thought, was a curious take on the process.

  18. If it is a chemical imbalance it needs a chemical remedy.
    If it is a psychological problem it needs a psychologist.
    I think your friend might be spot on with is remarks !

  19. It makes me uncomfortable – there is no substitute for proper care including adequate supervision.
    I can see the use/potential if the sufferers live in a secure community ( gated ) – this would allow them to enjoy gardens unsupervised – but would it stop them falling in the pond or eating daffodils?
    I am not convinced it will allow sufferers to live in the community at large. The biggest danger with Alzheimer’s disease is not only the memory losses but the accompanying confusion. My father when he suffered *forgot* a lotof the usual processes – such as crossing the road – pedestrian crossings and traffic lights.
    The elderly lady I used to clean for used to go walk about – which is one of the biggest risks to dementia patients. However in her case she always went to the same place – her friend down the road who she had been going to see every week for the last thirty years – she never went anywhere else. That was because it was the only place she remembered where to go!
    My friends mother on the other had scared the life out of them – she used to go to the bus stop at the bottom of their street and get on the first bus that came go to the terminal and then catch the next ( random) bus that arrived.
    A truly nightmarish situation.
    I am not comfortable with letting vulnerable people loose in such a manner – you wouldn’t let a five year old child wander like that unsupervised or unaccompanied – and to all intents and purposes that is what dementia sufferers are in mental terms.
    I think the article summed my concerns up with this question – “is the care better for the person with dementia or is it just about our convenience?”
    Can you imagine the furore (and lawsuits) when any potential tracking system like this fails and an elderly and vulnerable person walks under a bus or falls into a canal?

  20. Excellent points, Nicola!
    I was thinking of a couple of examples from the NYC area where separate nursing homes “lost” patients in a winter blast. They could not find their patients anywhere. Word went out. The police were called. Searches and phone calls were put forth.
    It was only after the blizzard, and the melt, that the patients were discovered dead on the roofs of the buildings wearing only their hospital gowns. It seems to me an RFID system might be able to say, “Hey, he’s on the roof!” and, perhaps, save a life or two.

  21. I have to ask how on earth vulnerable patients had access to the roof ? That would be a major breach of security and Health and Safety regulations here.
    My mother is in a nursing home with 50 or so elderly inmates. She has been there for ten years now. Over that time there have been various changes to the main building they live in.
    They used to have an open door policy now the door is kept locked – you now have to ring a bell and sign in and sign out if you are visiting. All the ground floor windows have been replaced with security windows, with security glass and only open about two inches. All the ground floor doors and fire exits are wired so if anyone opens them they flag up an alarm. The upstairs windows are similar to the downstairs windows and have a false balcony in front of them as an added barrier.
    Areas of higher risk – such as kitchen, boiler room laundry room are also behind locked doors unless they are being used by staff at the time.
    All the radiators have heat guards on them and the hot water is set at a no scald temperature.
    They have also put a hand rail /guard around the pond in the courtyard in case anyone decides to take a swim!
    The most vulnerable patients are housed on the ground floor. The staff do regular rounds during the day to check on residents – including those who choose to remain in their rooms.
    But yes RFID system would have been useful in the situation you outlined – but so would adequate planning and safety measures.

  22. You have your mother in a wonderful place, Nicola! I’m surprised at your use of the worn “inmate” but I see you’ve used it quite properly, but in the USA “inmate” usually means convicted prisoner. 😀
    No one can explain how the dead got to the roof. It was a violation of everything they are vested to protect.
    The UK seems to have much better safeguards in place — and I hope they keep evolving in such a wonderful and proactively protective manner.

  23. The reason I use the term is because that is what they use themselves – I think it is a way of finding humour in their situation. One of my mothers friends refers to her *day pass* when she goes out with her family for the day!
    We are very lucky with her home they do adhere to all the rules – sadly not all of them do and there are horrific tales of what goes on in some homes – sadly the state run homes tend to be worse run than the private ones.
    I think the main difference here in the UK is that we have National Standards which apply across the whole of the UK and which are *policed* centrally and for which National Government is ultimately responsible.
    I think in the USA the regulations differ from state to state ? Although given the size of both the country and the population in the USA I do not know how practical it would be to monitor on a national basis.

  24. You’re right we need more active policing in the USA when it comes to children and the elderly. There are lots of people that do a wonderful job but, unfortunately, third party oversight can be overlooked and ignored.

  25. The only possible method of acceptance of this product without a power struggle would be to allow everyone to see everyone else’s movements, or else people could be held slave to their actions. I do not think it is fair to single someone out and place them under suspicion, regardless of your relationship with them. Everyone deserves the bit of trust that comes without surveillance, but if the true use of this equipment is safety everyone should be safe in knowing where everyone else is. I imagine that knowing where anyone was at any point would be very comforting knowledge, as would the idea that people can follow you. The wrong people already know too much about any given person anyways.

  26. Thanks for that story, Nicola!
    Robots will soon be free thinking values-centered decision makers and they will express feelings. Then what? Do they get protected rights? Do we give them the same value as an unborn fetus?

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