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A new wave is breaking in the business security ocean. Radio frequency identification chips are already used to track everything from packages to lost pets. Now, an Ohio company has become the first to adopt RFID technology for its employees.
CityWatcher.com, a company that provides surveillance security services in Cincinnati, deals with highly sensitive information and therefore needs a high level of access control, says founder Sean Darks, 34. Implanting tiny RFID chips into the arms of himself and two willing employees (two other employees opted for RFID key chains instead) has allowed Darks to tightly control access to secure areas. "We were looking for a unique solution," says Darks, "something that was different and fairly simple as far as operation."
The issue of implanting an employee with an RFID chip is a controversial one. Critics raise questions about employee privacy and civil liberty. "The question is, What is the problem I'm trying to solve with the technology? Does the technology do a good job of solving that problem?" says Martin Abrams, executive director of the Center for Information Policy Leadership at law firm Hunton & Williams in Washington, DC. "[Will RFID] allow me to get in the door? In that case, why do we need to embed it in the person? Can't we embed it in a badge?"
Arguably, implanting a chip is more secure and poses no risk of being lost or stolen, like a key chain might. "I would agree with the HR and labor relations folks that this may be a hurdle that will take quite some time to get over," says Ray O'Hara, senior vice president at Vance International Inc., a security consulting company based in Oakton, Virginia. "I think it's going to be a big sell to get it [widely adopted] in the workplace."