By June 5, 2013 0 Comments Read More →

NO-LIMITS SURVEILLANCE: Cell Phone “Tattoos” and Microchipping to Replace Passwords?


Motorola recently announced that forthcoming phones could use electronic tattoos or pills to identify users. While the technology is certainly intriguing, this raises a plethora of privacy concerns, particularly for dissenting voices which have found themselves on the government’s “naughty list.”

The ‘Biostamps’ are made by the corporation MC10 and utilize bendable circuitry that can stretch up to double its original size, and are attached upon the wearer’s skin using a rubber stamp. The technology, aims to remove the need to enter passwords and replaces them instead with a phone being close to a user’s body, according Dennis Woodside, Motorola’s chief executive, at California’s D11 conference.

Nokia has previously experimented with integrating tattoos into mobile phones. Using metal ores, the ‘tattoo’ would vibrate when a phone call was being received or when a user’s battery was running low. This idea has not gone over as well as they had imagined, prompting some speculation that the developed the newer “patch” to acclimate people to the original idea of internal integration.

In this case, unlike the MC10 patch, the company’s patent application says that a user would have to scratch their arm to dismiss the alert, which would feel like a tingling sensation. Communicating using different sequences of single or multiple pulses, the tattoo could theoretically do different things for messages, emails or warnings. That certainly sounds convenient, however as the tattoo is inserted under the skin, users would have to commit to a minor surgical procedure to take advantage of the new technology, which Nokia says would only be activated after scars have healed. The technology could also be applied superficially, but would be less resistant to wear and tear. Time will tell if the new patch version will serve as a stepping stone, or if it will even catch on itself.

Motorola’s senior vice president of advance research, Regina Dugan, a former head of the US Pentagon’s Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, explained their aims further:

‘Prior to using the ferromagnetic inks for attaching to human skin, the ink material may be exposed to elevated temperatures to cause demagnetization. Such demagnetized ink is then used for creating an image by dispersing the ink material on or under the skin to make a functional, tattoo like image. Once the apparatus is settled and the skin cured, the user with the functional image may use permanent magnets to magnetize the functional image on the skin again.’

Motorola is also investigating the Proteus Digital Health pill, which has already been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and was given European regulatory approval in 2010. Its computer chip is powered by a battery using the acid in a user’s stomach.

The pill creates a unique signal like an ECG trace that can be picked up by devices outside the body and which could be used to verify a user’s identity. Current studies claim that the pill can be taken daily for up to a month.

While these innovations may mean big things for convenience in our daily lives, they also have many alarmed due to privacy concerns. Is the possibility of “unplugging” and getting off the grid a luxury of the past? Or is this a good thing? Will we be able to find wanted fugitives, rescue abducted children with ease? Or will this technology be used to suppress dissent and intimidate, ala the Nineteen Eighty-Four phrase: “Big Brother is Watching”?

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