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Why this company is implanting microchips in its workers

You’ll never forget your work badge if it’s implanted in your flesh.

That’s the thinking at Three Square Market, a Wisconsin vending machine software firm offering to inject microchips into employees so they can open office doors, log in to computers, share business cards and even buy snacks with just of a wave of the hand.

Chief Executive Todd Westby spoke with The Times about his embrace of Radio Frequency ID chips and his company’s entirely voluntary Aug. 1 implanting “chipping” event. This interview has been edited for clarity and continuity.


How does one get ‘chipped’?

It’s like an ear piercing. The procedure isn’t surgical; the chip is injected. A licensed professional puts it in the skin between the pointer finger and thumb. If you don’t want it anymore, you can remove it like a sliver.

Tweaking the human body seems like a big departure from vending machines. Why is your company experimenting with biohacking?

It wasn’t something we went looking for. We were working over in Europe and one of our operators had the chip technology.... And then the idea of bringing that technology to our company grew from there. We are a tech company so I don’t think anyone was surprised by it — especially because it can be used with our technology.

Chipping is like self-driving cars, who’d have thought 15 years ago those would be around?

We can’t track when you go to the restroom, we can’t track when and where you are coming and going — it’s purely for convenience.

— Three Square Market Chief Executive Todd Westby

Do employees have to get chipped?

It’s totally voluntary, the only incentive is we are picking up all the costs associated. There are around 55 people wanting to get chipped next week, but I think with all the buzz around it, it will grow to 100.

Will you be able to track employees’ whereabouts? Are there concerns about privacy?

No, absolutely not. It’s a passive chip, it isn’t like a chip in your dog. There is no GPS tracking. We can’t track when you go to the restroom, we can’t track when and where you are coming and going — it’s purely for convenience.

Is hacking a risk?

It’s really nonexistent. It’s 100% encrypted so it’s more secure than other things connected to RFID readers, like phones or credit cards. There is 256-bit encryption and the only way you could get close to hacking would to be within six inches of the chip — but even then the data would be scrambled.

What does your company’s health insurer think of this?

The insurance company doesn’t know because it’s like getting a piercing. The chip is FDA-approved and so there isn’t really a need to involve them.

What happens if an employee gets fired or quits the company?

We would inactivate the person’s account. It’s no different than a credit card. We won’t require people take out the chip because it can be used with different things but it won’t grant them access to our building or computers.

Do you plan on getting chipped?

Yes, I do. Actually, my whole family does. My wife, my son who is a junior in college and my daughter who is in high school are all going to get them next week with me. I’m going to use it to turn the lights on in my house — our whole house is automated. So when I scan my hand coming in the front door it’ll turn on the lights I’ll need and turn on my favorite TV station.

alexa.d'angelo@latimes.com

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