The Socio-Ethical Implications of Automatic Identification and Location Services

The Socio-Ethical Implications of Automatic Identification and Location Services

Katina Michael (University of Wollongong, Australia) and M.G. Michael (University of Wollongong, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-795-9.ch013
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Abstract

The number of automatic identification (auto-ID) technologies being utilized in eBusiness applications is growing rapidly. With an increasing trend toward miniaturization and wireless capabilities, auto-ID and LBS technologies are becoming more and more pervasive. The pace at which new product innovations are being introduced far outweighs the ability for citizens to absorb what these changes actually mean, and what their likely impact will be upon future generations. This chapter attempts to cover a broad spectrum of issues ranging from the social, cultural, religious and ethical implications of auto-ID with an emphasis on human transponder implants. Previous work is brought together and presented in a way that offers a holistic view of the current state of proceedings on the topic.
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Background

The relative ease of performing electronic transactions by using auto-ID has raised a number of social, cultural, religious and ethical issues. Among others, civil libertarians, religious advocates and conspiracy theorists have long cast doubts on ID technology and the ultimate use of the information gathered by it. Claims that auto-ID technology impinges on human rights, the right to privacy, and that eventually it will lead to totalitarian control of the populace have been put forward since at least the 1970s. This chapter aims to explore these themes with a particular emphasis on emerging human transponder implant technology. At present, several US companies are marketing e-business services that allow for the tracking and monitoring of individuals using RFID implantsRFID implants in the subcutaneous layer of the skin or Global Positioning System (GPS) wristwatches worn by enrollees. Until 2003, literature had not consistently addressed philosophical issues related to chip implants for humans in the context of e-business. We can point to some of the works of Roger Clarke, (1994), Simon Davies (1996), and Steve Mann (2001) who touched upon the idea of implants but it was popular online news sources like CNN (Sanchez-Klein, 1998) and the BBC (Jones, 2000) that were among the few mainline publishers discussing the topic with genuine and continued interest, albeit in a fragmented manner. The credible articles on implanting humans are mostly interviews conducted with proponents of the technology, such as Applied Digital Solutions (ADS, 2002) representatives who are makers of the VeriChip system solution (ADSX, 2004); Professor Kevin Warwick of the University of Reading who is known for his Cyborg 1.0 and 2.0 projects (Warwick, 2002); and implantees like the Jacobs family in the US who bear RFID transponder implants (Goldman, 2002). Block passages from these interviews are quoted throughout this chapter to bring some of the major issues to the fore using a holistic approach.

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