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Dorkbot Forum Features RFID Chip Implant Volunteers

People who have implanted themselves with RFID chips for experimental, recreational or personal reasons tell of their personal experiences at a unique conference.

K.C. Jones

January 5, 2006

3 Min Read

Of about 20 people who have implanted themselves with RFID chips for experimental, recreational or personal reasons and posted their stories on the Internet, at least three were at a meeting in New York City Wednesday.

They gathered with about 150 people to watch Mikey Sklar, a vice president of high performance computing and UNIX engineering for a New York investment bank, give a presentation on how and why he implanted himself.

Sklar, who makes electronic clothing with slogans such as "Technology will save us," said that he and his girlfriend went to a clothing swap in Brooklyn, where he gave a workshop on how to make pants pockets that block common RFID signals. Then, he discovered Amal Graafstra's online explanation of how and why he implanted himself.

Graafstra, like others, participated in the forum for those who are tagged.

"Wallets: you lose; watches: you forget; keys: I lock in the car," Graafstra said Wednesday after traveling from his home in Vancouver, B. C. to New York City to watch Sklar's presentation at monthly dorkbot-nyc meeting. "These items were really representing me and basically identifying me to whatever systems they worked with."

He's working on a computer system for his door and has already inspired his girlfriend, Jennifer Tomblin, to get "tagged."

Sklar, however, is hoping to use his chip for entertainment and convenience. He's rigging his computer with a Bluetooth device and an RFID reader so he can wave his hand and the computer will identify him. Then, it will pull up all of the content he prefers, including weather reports, RSS feeds and email. The wireless device will send the information across the room to an electronic display built by Sklar to allow him to access online information from anywhere in his living room.

Implanting the chip first was one way to ensure that Sklar would be motivated to finish the project. It also indulges the self-described "gadget junkie's" need to tinker with electronics and software and get closer to his trans-humanist beliefs.

"It's my attempt at becoming a cyborg," he told the Dorkbot audience with a smile.

Finally, the implant has given Sklar a personal experience with RFID so he can learn about its weaknesses and strengths.

The crowd he drew and the attention he's getting indicate that it may also be a way to better spread his message about privacy concerns regarding RFID. Several people attending the event, which promotes "people doing strange things with electricity," were unaware of what RFID is and how it works.

Sklar's presentation included information on VeriChip, a company that sells implants and used them on cadavers after Hurricane Katrina. Sklar said he chose to buy his chip from Trossen Innovations, which warns against using the device on humans, because they don't keep a subscriber list like the one VeriChip uses. That could eventually track people, he said.

Showing a page promoting "wander prevention" for seniors, Sklar said: "I like this." He told the crowd that although nobody is implanting babies with chips yet, VeriChip advertises its product for "infant protection." The company actually places RFID devices in wrist bands.

When one woman asked if Sklar worries whether his project will contribute to invasions of privacy, he pointed out that many mobile phones, consumer products, and credit cards already have tracking capabilities.

"I think there will be a long period of external tagging before internal tagging," he said.

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