In what is being seen by many as a ridiculous bid to augment security and stop access to sensitive areas, U.K. companies are reportedly exploring their options to literally get under their employees’ skin by microchipping them.
Biohax International, a Swedish tech company specializing in human chip implants, told the Sunday Telegraph that it was in talks with several legal and financial firms in the U.K., including a “major” player with hundreds of thousands of staff on its payroll, about fitting their employees with the £150 device, not bigger than a grain of rice.
”These companies have sensitive documents they are dealing with,” said Biohax founder and former professional body piercer Jowan Österlund.
“[The chips] would allow them to set restrictions for whoever,” he told the publication.
As insensitive as it may sound, Österlund’s justification is understandable as Biohax stands to gain hugely should the talks materialize into something concrete – read lucrative microchipping contracts for the company.
Microchipping someone would entail implanting the tiny device in the fleshy part between the thumb and the index finger (forefinger).
X-Ray showing microchip implant between the thumb and index finger (Image: Biohax)
The prospect of being microchipped by employers is being looked at by workers and certain organizations as a breach of employees’ right to privacy.
A spokesperson for the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), which represents 190,000 businesses comprising some 1,500 direct and 188,500 indirect members, was quoted by the Guardian to have said that it made for “for distinctly uncomfortable reading.”
Here’s what he told the British daily newspaper.
“While technology is changing the way we work, this makes for distinctly uncomfortable reading.
“Firms should be concentrating on rather more immediate priorities and focusing on engaging their employees.”
Trades Union Congress general secretary Frances O’Grady is concerned that companies may use coercive tactics to microchip their workers.
“We know workers are already concerned that some employers are using tech to control and micromanage, whittling away their staff’s right to privacy,” O’Grady told the Guardian.
“Microchipping would give bosses even more power and control over their workers,” he added, going on to say that “there are obvious risks involved, and employers must not brush them aside, or pressure staff into being chipped.”
Österlund is of the opinion that bigger companies with 200,000 or more workers should make microchipping optional for them, saying that even “if you have a 15% uptake that is still a huge number of people that won’t require a physical ID pass.”
BioTeq is another microchipping company offering the implants to, both, businesses and individuals, with 150 successful implants in the U.K. to its credit.
In fact, the founder and owner of the Hampshire -based company, Steven Northam, has the distinction of being the first Britisher to be microchipped.
This is what he told BusinessCloud in an interview in September this year.
“I thought it was quirky and that there were interesting things you could do with the tech.
“I had the chip fitted almost a year ago and recently bought a house, so I thought instead of fitting a lock I’ll fit a swipe-card entry so I can get in with my hand, start my car, all sorts of stuff.
“I didn’t really have any concerns about having it done, it was quite straightforward.”
Northam told the Guardian that BioTeq had also microchipped employees of a bank interested in testing the technology and that it had even shipped the tiny implants to Spain, France, Germany, Japan and China.
He also said that all directors at BioTech and IncuHive, one of the other companies he owns, have been microchipped.
Three out of the Big Four auditors, including KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Ernst & Young, have said that they are not considering microchipping their employees, with the fourth biggie, Deloitte, declining to comment, the Guardian reported.
If the Biohax website is anything to go by, the company will soon have a presence in London.
The company also claims to have microchipped 4,000 people – a majority of them in Sweden – and says that is working closely with Statens Järnvägar, the state-owned Swedish rail company, to enable passengers to travel using chip plants instead of tickets.