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Concerned with hackers, privacy, state senator proposes banning forced microchip implants

Riley Snyder
Riley Snyder

Usually, concerns over the government or hackers tracking a person’s every move through a small chip surgically implanted in a person’s hand sounds more like a sci-fi influenced fever dream than a serious public policy question.

But that’s one of the reasons used by Republican Sen. Becky Harris as support for SB109, a bill she presented to a Nevada Senate committee on Monday that would prohibit anyone — government agency, private business or evil scientist — from forcibly implanting microchips in any other human and punishable by a category C felony.

Despite jokes from committee members that it sounded like a “Russian plot,” Harris said the bill is a preemptive move to deal with potentially murky ethical issues surrounding “microchipping,” which broadly defined refers to the implantation of a small radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag into a person’s skin.

And while Harris said she didn’t know of any Nevada businesses or state agencies that planned to start requiring others to be microchipped, she said she was concerned about recent stories out of Europe and a business in Ohio that requested certain employees be implanted with a chip to access secure areas.

She said she was concerned that implanted microchips may be poorly encrypted, and could lead to serious privacy concerns if the chip could be manipulated and accessed.

“It is possible that you could harass or stalk chip individuals with the right type of reader” she said.

Harris said that the bill wouldn’t prohibit voluntary implantation of a microchip.

At least four other states explicitly prohibit mandated implantation of a RFID microchip into a human, including California, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Wisconsin. The federal Food and Drug Administration approved at least one company’s implantable chip technology.

No one testified against the bill, but John Piro, a lobbyist with the Las Vegas Public Defender’s Office, said he wanted to clarify the language to prevent “stacking” felony offenses because the bill considers every day a chip is implanted to be a separate offense. The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

Harris, who said a concerned citizen brought the bill to her attention, said she was surprised by the number of emails she had received over the bill.

“As I began to look into the issue, I was surprised at the merit that I believe the issue warrants,” she said.

12:32 p.m. - This story has been updated to correct a quote from Harris, where she referred to a "reader," not a "radar."

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