Swedes are inserting tiny microchips under their skin

Fed up with carrying cumbersome keychains and bulky wallets? Why not implant tiny microchips into your fingers?
Privacy news
3 mins
A Swedish flag fashioned to look like a thumbs up.

Fed up with carrying cumbersome keychains and bulky wallets? Why not copy a growing number of Swedes and implant tiny microchips into your fingers?

Instead of searching into the depths of your pockets for your gym keycard or scrolling through your phone for your concert ticket, you can simply swipe your thumb.

These tiny chips were designed to help make life easier and can store all sorts of personal information: emergency contact details, social media profiles, subway cards, bus tickets, gym IDs, and more.

The technology itself has been around for a few years but is growing in popularity, particularly in Sweden. And with more people hopping on the biotech bandwagon, an expanding number of companies could soon start developing apps, tools, and even devices to help accommodate this growing trend.

How the procedure works

Roughly the size of a grain of rice, these microchips are surgically inserted into the user’s thumb. The procedure costs around 180 USD and only takes a few minutes.

Already, more than 4,000 Swedes have signed up for this new technology, with more requests coming in every day. Biohax International, a leader in the microchip field, has stated it’s having trouble keeping up with the demand.

Speaking to NPR, Biohax founder Jowan Osterlund said that having these microchips inserted saves time and clears up clutter.

“Having different cards and tokens verifying your identity to a bunch of different systems just doesn’t make sense,” Osterlund said. “Using a chip means that the hyper-connected surroundings that you live in every day can be streamlined.”

The growing need for biotech

In spite of all the potential data risks, more and more people are starting to store their passwords, various profiles, and email information on their mobile devices. In fact, more than 63% of Americans use a mobile banking app, with 14% checking it at least once a day.

It’s not a stretch to say that cash is no longer king. With Apple Pay, Alipay, Venmo, Google Wallet, and other accessible apps, it’s simply easier (and faster) to use your smartphone than to depend on a bundle of credit cards and cash in your pockets.

There’s definitely a logical argument to be made for this new technology. After all, in the evolution of paper to plastic to digital, biometry seems like the next likely step. That said, with so many reports of data mining, hacking, and theft over the last few years, it’s natural to have reservations.

Is biotechnology more secure than your smartphone?

While the pros and cons of inserting microchips into your body are debatable, the real question is whether this new technology is safe.

The rise in recent data theft suggests we should be wary. With smartwatches, fitness trackers, and other health apps becoming more commonplace, privacy experts are worried that hackers—who already have more access to people’s highly sensitive health info than ever before—could use this new technology to expose people’s highly private, highly personal data on an unprecedented scale.

A good indicator of possible outcomes could be inferred from the modern medical field. While many medical IoT devices have been implemented to great effect, the majority of these devices tend to carry a substantial risk.

Smart cardiac defibrillators and pacemakers have long been known to be highly vulnerable to hackers, and more recently smart infusion pumps were found to have a gaping flaw that could allow hackers to easily (and remotely) change the system settings.

One study by Trend Micro found that more than 100,000 medical devices in use today are currently unsecured. And this isn’t even taking into account how much data the microchip manufacturers could log by literally having their devices inserted into your hand.

Your privacy is more important than convenience

When it comes to embracing new technology, Sweden’s usually ahead of the curb. As a country that’s known for being extremely pragmatic, this new trend could eventually set the stage for worldwide adoption.

That said, the potential privacy implications are numerous, and it’s worth approaching this new technology with a heavy dose of skepticism. After all, your privacy is important—and definitely not worth risking for the sake of convenience.