Wearables and permanence: will you body-mod for tech? (poll)


I’ve always been the most technologically advanced guy in my family, and even in my group of friends. I’ve generally got the latest generation smartphone and tablet. I wear a Bluetooth headset for listening to music and making phone calls. I own several smartwatches (even before the LG G Watch and Pebble came on scene). My house, car, and office are peppered with NFC tags.

Now we’re starting to see what I consider to be a disturbing trend: body-modding for tech.

Not long ago we saw a tattoo artist who embedded four high-power magnets into his wrist so he could keep his iPod Nano at the ready. We’ve seen temporary tattoos that can be used to unlock your phone. We’ve heard about Google’s desire to embed a microchip into a contact lens.

faceunlockWith a renewed emphasis on security, devices with biometric features such as fingerprint scanners are becoming more common.
Biometrics, however, are not an exact science – just look at Android’s Face Unlock. Unlocking with a fingerprint isn’t much easier, or much more accurate. From a high-level, the way modern biometrics works is by distilling characteristics about your face, your fingerprint, or your eye into what amounts to a digital signature. Since this involves converting an analog source into a digital equivalent, things can get lost in translation – so to speak. The solution, some say, is to make those temporary tattoos “permanent”. We already chip our dogs and sometimes even our cats. Why not ourselves?

Utilizing a serialized microchip embedded subcutaneously, a digital signature of sorts has the potential to be much more accurate than the biometrics signatures of today. Passwords could be hashed with very, very long strings of characters embedded in that chip. Put simply, it would make our lives significantly more secure, right?

I don’t think so. This singular, uniquely identifiable bit of data could be used to make our lives significantly easier and more secure, but could also be used to steal our identities – and more. Whenever I want to “disconnect” from technology, I can turn my phone, watch, and headset off, or leave them at home, and not have to worry about being distracted by – or identified by – my personal electronics.

I drive a hybrid vehicle which has a state-issued “Clean Air Vehicle” sticker in the window – with an RFID chip embedded inside. The chip is there so I can drive in the HOV/Toll lane by myself without paying a toll. On the surface that’s a good thing, but now the Department of Transportation knows where I am, and since it knows the distance between toll-scanners, it can calculate how fast I’m driving, too. That starts getting a little scary.

contact lenseWhat happens when that RFID chip isn’t in a sticker on your car, but in a chip embedded just under your skin. Organizations – not just governments – could know where you are, who you’re hanging out with, and make “meta-data” inferences based on your behaviors. Tell me that’s not scary to you. And you know that data is going to get sold and resold – and eventually even hacked.

Sure, some will say “if you’re not doing anything wrong, you don’t have anything to hide“, and while I agree with the sentiment to a point, I still lock my front door and have curtains in my bathroom – just like you do.

Privacy isn’t about “hiding” things, it’s about keeping your business secure from prying eyes.

Your turn

Now that I’ve sufficiently biased you to my opinion, what do you think? Are you willing to undergo any kind of body-mod for tech? Let us know in the survey below, then head down to the comments and explain your answer.

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About The Author
Joe Levi
Joe graduated from Weber State University with two degrees in Information Systems and Technologies. He has carried mobile devices with him for more than a decade, including Apple's Newton, Microsoft's Handheld and Palm Sized PCs, and is Pocketnow's "Android Guy". By day you'll find Joe coding web pages, tweaking for SEO, and leveraging social media to spread the word. By night you'll probably find him writing technology and "prepping" articles, as well as shooting video. Read more about Joe Levi here.