Despite all of the GPS and related technologies, many transportation operators claim that they are unable to locate their drivers and employees while on the road. Some are calling for a very radical s...
Despite all of the GPS and related technologies, many transportation operators claim that they are unable to locate their drivers and employees while on the road. Some are calling for a very radical solution. It raises many moral issues.
In a perfect world, universal implantation of the microchip radio frequency identification device (RFID) would be activated by a chip reader. It would be tamper-proof, practically undetectable and indestructible, and would be implanted under the skin.
What is the big deal?
This device, as claimed, would be used only for legitimate, legal and noble purposes. It could make life better for all of us, providing better security and peace of mind for us and our loved ones. It could even save lives and tremendously benefit mankind as a whole. For the transportation industry, it could help keep track of all employees in far away places.
However, this is not a perfect world. Bar codes for human beings? Does anyone want to be treated like a human bar code by the authorities?
The most serious threat to liberty could be an all-inclusive database mandated by government -a national identification card with biometric identifiers. Such an ID would increase unsolicited surveillance, will blur the distinction between public and private databases, and will undercut a presumptive right to maintain anonymity. The ID would devolve into a general law enforcement tool having nothing to do with response to terrorism.
The resulting level of intrusion necessitated by implantation would impinge on our many legal rights. It is plausible that, since the technology has not yet been perfected, we as a society would believe there is no need to address the incipient legal problems until devices are used. Justice Rehnquist adopted this view in a US Supreme Court decision concerning beeper surveillance where the respondent had indicated that if beeper surveillance were constitutional, “Twentyfour hour surveillance of any citizen of this country will be possible, without judicial knowledge or supervision.”
However, because of the very sweeping reductions in personal liberty and privacy that such implantation represents, the legal ramifications need to be explored now. Although the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the US Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures, a national identification system via microchip implants could be achieved in two stages.
A system using the technology, although introduced as a voluntary procedure, might be difficult to dislodge despite limitations of individual freedoms because its advantages would be extremely attractive. The positive applications might be said to outweigh the detrimental legal consequences at that time. Therefore, it is not too soon to consider the repercussions that mandatory microchip implantation would have, as a pre-emptive measure. Upon introduction as a voluntary system, the microchip implantation would appear to be palatable.
The US Fourth Amendment has been invoked with reference to internal intrusions upon individuals to obtain evidence, which could be used against them. Examples include the withdrawal of blood and bodily searches, which require surgical procedures or other means to extract substances from the body. In US Winston v. Lee (470 U. S. 753 (1985)), a robber was shot during an escape from the scene of an attempted robbery. Shortly thereafter, a man with a gunshot wound was discovered in the vicinity. To confirm that the suspect was connected with that particular robbery, the police wanted to compel surgery to remove the bullet. Because of the complicated and life-threatening surgery required to remove the bullet, the US Supreme Court ruled that the surgery would be an unreasonable search.
English Common Law and the US Fifth Amendment provides, in principle, that no citizen shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself. A US Supreme Court justice once noted that, “[A] person is compelled to be a witness against himself not only when he is compelled to testify, but also when…incriminating evidence is forcibly taken from him by a contrivance of modern science.”
To avoid a governmental mandate, citizens may advocate for an outright ban. This drastic measure may also be necessary in a system that is initially voluntary, for it may well be the precursor to a mandate. Short of that, the best way of preventing incipient problems is to protect rights before desensitization.
Although use of such a device at first appears farfetched, examination of the existing technology and the potential utility proves that microchip implantation is both possible and, for some purposes, desirable. Beginning with voluntary introduction, Americans and Canadians may be lulled into accepting them. This article thus sounds a warning bell. The time to prevent grievous intrusion into personal privacy by enacting appropriate legislative safeguards is now, rather than when it is too late.
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