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Under The Skin

WUSA 9 News | February 25 2005

Comment: This piece is too overwhelmingly sycophantic not to have been paid for by Applied Digital. This video carries a revulsion warning.

Losing your wallet these days can quickly sink you into the chaotic world of identity theft.

But what if your credit cards, drivers license, even your medical records were hidden under your skin?

It's an idea that makes some people's skin crawl!

Jennifer Ryan shows you why everyone from Alzheimer's patients to secret agents may some day be imbedded with their very own barcode!

Jennifer Ryan's report

Just like the barcode on a can of tomatoes, reduced to a number in a fraction of a second and linked to a computer database, people are voluntarily being bar-coded.

The number is stored within a tiny glass chip that's the size of a grain of rice and surgically implanted just under the skin.

"A lot of people think this is a tracking device, a GPS. That's not what it's about", says Dr. Albert Lee, an Internist in Bethesda.

What it is, is a VeriChip, a radio-frequency i.d tag by a company called Applied Digital. The chip is loaded with whatever personal information you choose.

That can include your Social Security number, insurance, health information or even name and address.

Exclusive nightclubs in Europe allow patrons to run a bar tab with their credit card number accessed through that chip imbedded in the back of their arm.

A special reader has to be within a few inches to access your 16 digit number. To access your computer file, a password is needed.

Its original intent was for medical emergencies. In fact the company is about to give chip readers to 200 Emergency Rooms in America for free.

But Verichips could someday be implanted in our military with information, like next of kin.

Top secret government officials could use them to gain access to offices or files, or to anyone required to give i.d verification for financial reasons.

Humans can be tracked just like your dog or cat. The first id chips were put in pets. Today 70,000 shelters and veterinarians in American can scan a lost or injured animal and find the owner, in seconds.

In fact, Verichip has yet to land its first domestic account.

These telecommunications marketers in Virginia hope to be the first if they can convince the Department of Defense to get on board.

Maybe it's fear of the unknown or a sort-of 'techno-paranoia' about Big Brother or crafty hackers.

But unlike your fingerprints or iris scan, which once you give you can never get back, a Verichip can be removed and therefore the link is broken.

So like the 'now-familiar' product barcode, hearings on the hill suggest human barcodes are the future.

And to think, 30-years ago Maryland lawmakers tried to outlaw the product barcode. Technology forged ahead.

Today, tomatoes. Tomorrow, you could say, is up in arms.

Verichip's maker says no one would ever be forced to get a chip; it's by choice.

In fact, the individual is responsible for entering or deleting whatever information he types into his own file.

As for hackers? They say there are several security barriers, but no computer system is fool-proof.

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