CASPIAN Special Report, October 19, 2004
FDA Letter Raises Questions about VeriChip Safety, Data Security
Think it's completely safe to inject an RFID transponder into your flesh? Think again.
Although the FDA approved the VeriChip implant last week, their approval does not mean the device is completely safe, according to an FDA letter CASPIAN has obtained. The letter, dated October 12, 2004, was sent to Digital Angel Corporation and outlines a number of potential health risks associated with the device.
Among the potential problems the FDA identifies are: "adverse tissue reaction," "migration of the implanted transponder," "failure of implanted transponder," "electrical hazards" and "magnetic resonance imaging [MRI] incompatibilty." Not to mention the nasty needle stick from the "inserter" used to inject it. (The FDA lists "failure of inserter" -- a bloody possiblity we'd rather not contemplate -- among the risks.)
To read the FDA's letter for yourself, download the PDF and refer to Page 3, Paragraph 2.
Of the numerous risks listed, MRI incompatibility is perhaps the most serious. An MRI machine uses powerful magnetic fields coupled with pulsed radio frequency (RF) fields. According to the FDA's Primer on Medical Device Interactions with Magnetic Resonance Imaging Systems, "electrical currents may be induced in conductive metal implants" that can cause "potentially severe patient burns."
Presumably, VeriChip-MRI incompatibility means that doctors will be unable to order this potentially life-saving diagnostic procedure for patients with VeriChip implants, unless the patient undergoes a surgical procedure to remove the VeriChip first.
In addition to health risks, the FDA's letter identifies "compromised data security" as one of the concerns associated with the VeriChip. It appears that not only could someone use a reader device to capture the information from an implanted VeriChip, but they could use that information to create a cloned chip with the same functionality. (Of course, criminals lacking RF engineering skills might be tempted to take a more direct route and simply gouge the device out of their victims' arms instead.)
If that's not enough to convince you to "say no" to the VeriChip, how about knowing your VeriChip implant can be read whenever you pass through a doorway equipped with a special VeriChip "portal scanner"?
The image at right comes from a company called "Find Me, LLC," a value-added reseller of VeriChip technology based in Louisiana. The company also sells a handheld reader, which presumably anyone can use to read VeriChip data.
That's quite a lot of potential harm for something supposedly designed to help patients.
If you're looking for a secure, non-invasive way to alert medical professionals to your health history, we recommend the MedicAlert bracelet as a safe alternative to the VeriChip. Given the MedicAlert's 48-year track record, all emergency health providers know to look for it. It costs far less and has none of the serious health risks associated with an implanted computer chip.
The Spychips website is a project of CASPIAN, Consumers
Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering.
© 2003-2007 Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre. All Rights Reserved.