First, a basic primer on what RFID’s are:
An RFID is a small computer chip which holds a very small amount of information, typically just a string of numbers, letters or other symbols. The chip has a tiny radio transmitter in it, and when a reader is brought near it, it will broadcast that data so it can be read by the reading device, which contains a radio receiver.
Importantly, RFID’s are not self-powered. They are far too tiny for any kind of battery capacity. Instead, the RFID reader energizes the RFID with an electromagnetic field. When the RFID is placed in the field, it becomes activated and transmits the code it contains. As a result, RFID’s can’t be read from any substansial distance. But they can be read even if they are covered, such as if they are on the inside of a box or embedded in an object.
RFID’s are therefore analogous to bar codes. The major difference is that a barcode needs to be visible, on the outside of an item and reading it requires finding it and directing a scanner at it. RFID’s have the advantage of working when obscured and of being readable by running the reader over an item, even if the exact location of the RFID is unknown. They can therefore be used to inventory merchandise while it is still on the shelf or to track multiple items as they move through a system. They can also be embedded in things like credit cards or security passes, allowing them to be used by just holding them near a reader.
RFID’s can also be implanted. A typical RFID implant is about the size and shape of a grain of rice. It contains the chip inside a biologically inert material which is shaped to allow it to be inserted through a very small incision or even injected with a thick needle. A few individuals have chosen to have an RFID implanted as a way of accessing secure systems. This works a lot like biometrics, but may be more robust. When implanted with an RFID, an individual can do things like open locks and sign onto secure computers by just waving their hand infr0nt of a reader. (Presuming, of course, that their hand is where it is implanted.)
This is rare, however. Only a few people have RFID’s in their body and it’s largely just a way of being a super early-adopted. It will earn you some definite nerd points.
Implantable RFID’s are common for pets, however. The RFID acts as a tag that cannot be easily removed or lost. Once implanted, the pet can be tracked back to its owner if it ever gets lost and is picked up by an animal shelter. Animal shelters typically have RFID readers on site and will scan a dog or cat when they are found without identification. If the animal has an RFID, then the unique code it carries is displayed on the reader. This code can be used to find the owners in a database.
But what about mass implantation in people without their consent?
This is a common thread in conspiracy theories. Some have claimed that the government (or some other evil organization) is planning on or has already begun putting RFID’s in the bodies of unsuspecting citizens. Allegedly this is to track their movements and keep tabs on them. Others claim it is part of a mind-control system.
Of course, despite claims that they can be used for realtime tracking, an RFID cannot be used for this at all. As mentioned, it is only energized when it comes in close proximity to the receiver. It could, however, be used to identify individuals when they entered certain areas which are equipped with readers for the RFID’s.
Arguably this could be done without RFID readers at all. A simple fingerprint scanner and identify and individual from a database of fingerprints. However, RFID’s would have the advantage of allowing it to be done more covertly, perhaps without the subjects knowledge.
There is no evidence that this has ever been done, however… or is there?
Study Finds 1 in 3 Americans Have Been Implanted With RFID Chips: Most Unaware
Scientists at the Wyoming Institute of Technology (WIT) have determined that a shocking 1 in 3 Americans has been implanted with an RFID microchip. In an article published this week, they detail a study of nearly 3000 individuals, in which they identified nearly 1000 individuals that had been implanted with an RFID chip. Most were unaware that they had been implanted with such a chip. This finding comes amongst increasing predictions that RFID chip implantation will become common place in the next decade.
Lead scientist on the study, John Brugle, Ph.D. offered the following:
We were motivated to perform this study by all of the public interest in RFID implantation and fears that it would be common place. It turns out, in fact, that it is already common place. We found that a shockingly high number of Americans are carrying RFID implants in their body. The overwhelming majority of these individuals were completely unaware that they had been implanted. I hope that this study causes us to take pause as a society and truly consider the ramifications and implications of human RFID implantation.
The study looked both at the prevalence of RFID implantation, as well as the common implantation locations. In addition to commonly known implantation sites, such as the back of the hand, they also identified many RFID chips that had been implanted in dental fillings. The function of the chips varied, but the authors of the study indicated that many revealed personal identities, including social security numbers, as well as medical records. The best way to determine if you have been implanted with an RFID chip is to consult a qualified medical professional to administer a full body scan with an RFID reader. Concerned citizens can also attempt a self scan, but civilian grade scanners are not always sensitive enough to detect implanted RFID chips.
Sounds scary! Especially considering that they have some kind of amazing and previously unknown type of RFID that requires an ultra-sensitive scanner that you and I can’t get our hands on. It begs the question of what their plans are and who is doing it.
But before anyone panics lets take a closer look at the claim and where it is coming from. First, the Wyoming Institute of Technology. On its face, that sounds like some kind of technically-oriented university, not unlike the Massachussetts Institute of Technology. The organization has a logo that looks like something a university would have. It also claims to be partnered with a number of big important science and technology companies.
But a closer look at their website seems to show this is not the case. The website is full of stock images and looks official, but that is easy to fake. There’s no actual address listed and I have been unable to find any documentation that the institute exists at all. It’s not referenced by any official source and it does not seem to have ever published anything in a peer-reviwed journal. The experts at WIT have, however, stated that “Solar Panels Drain the Sun’s Energy.”
Moreover, the website is full of absolutely ridiculous stories like “Study finds Harmful Effects of Prayer” and “Is NY the New Tornado Alley.”
But there is a big problem here. While I am all for poking fun at conspiracy theorists, the story, as it is written and released is the kind of thing that is almost certain to garner the attention of believers. In fact, it has. It’s widely quoted and a mainstay on many conspiracy theory sites and forms.
There’s nothing in the story that is so silly as to show that it is fake. If this had been The Onion, one might see something like “Researchers believe the RFID’s were implanted by trained monkeys that come into people’s homes at night in tiny helicopters.” While some might still believe it, such an overtly silly statement would show it to be satire.
It’s unclear what the point of the hoax site is, whether it is to make a joke or to see how far ridiculous claims can be pushed. Regardless, the danger is that the creators have managed to make something that looks and sounds official enough to trick many. At some point, someone is going to start cutting themselves up, searching for the RFID chip, if that has not happened already.
With or without this satirical site the claim that there are plans or programs to implant everyone with an RFID are not going anywhere. They may be based on claims that are simply untrue, like that RFID’s contain microphones or GPS receivers. But believers rarely question these kind of things.
This entry was posted on Friday, August 8th, 2014 at 3:53 pm and is filed under Bad Science, Conspiracy Theories, Culture, Humor. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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