The Internet of People? Reflections on the Future Regulation of Human-Implantable Radio Frequency Identification
in Privacy, Identity, and Anonymity: Lessons from the Identity Trail, eds. Ian Kerr, Valerie Steeves and Carole Lucock (Oxford University Press, in press 2009)
24 Pages Posted: 27 Feb 2013
Date Written: February 26, 2013
In this chapter, the author examines some of the legal and ethical implications of human-implantable radio frequency identification (RFID).
Part I offers a brief account of RFID technologies. The author defines and explains the purpose and use of RFID tags. The author describes various RFID applications in order to set the context for understanding a view held by some, that if RFID becomes a mainstream technology, it might be truly transformative, enabling “the internet of things.” The author then discusses human-implantable RFIDs in the realm of health care. This overview provides an example of the problems that can arise in the regulation of the multifarious functions of human-implantable RFIDs.
The author provides a brief explication of existing regulatory environment for RFID in Part II of this chapter. Specifically, the author reviews existing laws applicable to RFID such as regulations regarding such things as (a) communications, (b) electronic waste, (c) healthy and safety, and (d) privacy. The purpose of this section is to set the stage for Part III, where the author claims that current approaches are too narrow and will fall short in protecting our privacy and autonomy interests if implantable RFID becomes part of the infrastructure of the so-called internet of things.
In order to grasp the potential shortcomings of our current regulatory environment, the author goes on in Part IV to show that human-implantable RFIDs are just one of the many implantable devices being developed as part of a growing trend to merge human bodies with machine parts. By examining the broader implications of human-implantable RFIDs and their role in what the author calls the “human-machine merger,” the author grounds his view that the human-machine merger implicates individual identity and personal autonomy.
In Part V, the author concludes the chapter by suggesting that, rather than giving up core principles and values just because they are in tension with RFID and other emerging technologies, we must (i) rethink the appropriate application of these principles, and (ii) determine whether there is sufficient justification for moving forward with human-implantable RFID, ubiquitous computing, and the Internet of things.
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