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5 Questions About Commercially Available, Injectable Electronic Implants

This week's Dallas Observer features a story on the rising use of electronic implants in high-end universities and tattoo parlors in North Texas. It turns out there are commercially available radio frequency identification (RFID) implants that people can order from the website of companies like Dangerous Things and Cyberise.me. Body hackers (or "grinders") use these chips to unlock doors, log onto computers, open gun safes, share media and start vehicles. Here are some answers to questions about these implants that always seem to come up. 

1) Can you remove them?
The ones you can buy, yes. There are two kinds of implants. One kind has biocompatible scaffolding that is designed to promote tissue growth that bonds the implant to the body. But commercially sold implants are sheathed in glass, so no such bonds grow. This enables implants to be removed much more easily.

2) Can the implant break inside the body?
Yes. This is not as problematic as it sounds, since any blow that is hard enough to shatter the glass capsule surrounding the chip would be hard enough to break bones. In other words, you’d have bigger problems than just a few shards of glass and a chip if this happened. Amal Graafstra, founder of Dangerous Things, says there has never been a report of a capsule breaking.  

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3) Is this the Mark of the Beast?
Doubtful. The placement is correct, as the Bible does note that the Mark could be found on people’s hands. But according to Revelation 13:16-18, “no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark.” That sounds more like an implant that transmits financial data, which is harder to do than buying one to unlock a car door. "[Bank and credit cards] are all currently based on chips with memory structures specifically designed to make it difficult to get at the payment information," Dangerous Things notes on its website. "In short, they are designed to make attempts at copying the RFID functionality to another tag difficult or impossible." So using a commercially available implant as a substitute for your debit card is not feasible. Of course people could remove the antenna coils from existing cards and implant them, if they wanted a Mark of the Beast-style bank card under their skin.      

4) Are they MRI safe?
Probably. Magnets are a real problem in MRIs, but RFID chips fare better. The FDA’s primer on the scanning machines note that metal implants can heat up when exposed and in 2004 noted that MRIs can cause the chips made by a company called VeriChip to move around inside the body. However, veterinary researchers in 2013 published a paper in the Veterinary Radiology & Ultrasound Journal that showed that RFID tags didn’t cause any damage at various commonly used field strengths. Smart money is on removing that implant before getting that MRI anyway.

5) Can the government use these implants to track you from space?
No. These are not connected to global positioning satellites. Even if Uncle Sam or Uncle Vladimir spent the money to create a reader large and powerful enough to interrogate body implants in people’s hands from a distance, the device doesn’t have enough power to respond beyond a few inches. 

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