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Clubbers choose chip implants to jump queues
Clubbers in Spain are choosing to receive a microchip implant instead of carrying a membership card. It is the latest and perhaps the most unlikely of uses for implantable radio frequency ID chips.
The Baja Beach Club in Barcelona offers people signing up for VIP membership a choice between an RFID chip and a normal card. VIP members can jump the entrance queues, reserve a table and use the nightclub's VIP lounge.
"The RFID chip is not compulsory," says Conrad Chase, managing director of the club. But he says there are advantages to having it. The obvious one is that you do not have to carry a membership card around with you, but also it means you can leave your wallet at home. This is because the RFID can be used as an in-house debit card, says Chase.
When drinks are ordered the RFID is scanned with a handheld device and the cost is added to your bill. The chips, called VeriChips, are produced by US company Applied Digital Solutions.
Grain of rice
The chips are 1.2 millimetres wide and 12 millimetres long and look like a long grain of rice. A medically trained person injects the chip under the skin in the upper left arm, by the triceps.
A scanner reads the chip by emitting a radio signal. This energises the chip and causes it to send out a small radio frequency signal. This can be picked up from about 10 centimetres away.
Chase would not discuss the cost of each chip but said that both card-holding and implanted VIP members would be charged the same fee of 25 Euros for joining.
So far only nine people have been implanted since the scheme started in March. Chase says this is because you cannot implant people who agree to it in the early hours when they might be drunk. They need to discuss the procedure in a sober environment first, he says.
But they should also be informed of the privacy implications of having an implant, says Ian Brown, director of the Foundation for Information Policy Research, a UK-based think tank.
"It's not like you can take it off when you leave the club or get home," says Brown. "At the very least it's going to be awkward to remove."
As far as Chase is concerned there are no privacy issues. The bearer has control over what services they sign up for, he says. The only information that can be gleaned without their consent is the chip's unique ID number - it is completely anonymous, he says.
But people may object even to this, says Brown, in much the same way that some are opposed to the use of internet cookies recording their browsing activity.
It would be like becoming a walking internet
cookie, he says. For example, retailers equipped with RFID scanners would
be capable of monitoring chipped shoppers visits and purchases.