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Gambling with Chips

A friend of mine recently told me they were taking their small family on vacation to Disneyland for the first time but said they were debating whether or not to “microchip” their kids for safety.

I have to admit I was a little taken aback. She seemed so... normal. As something I would never do myself, I guess I had just sort of assumed that my friends probably felt the same way about it.

It's important to note that current microchipping technology is not really designed around transmitting data, but rather allowing a digital reader to pull data off the chip, such as name, social security number, or medical data. While there are some microchipping companies working on chips that can transmit data, the technology today only allows passive reading of a chip by a hand-held reading device being passed over the chip. It’s not like you can implant a chip in your kid and pull up their location data on your phone. However, a person walking through a turnstile or doorway could, in theory, be tracked. Just the same way you might walk through a metal detector, similar devices could read implanted chips.

My own concerns about ‘chipping’ children are that it's maybe step one on a slippery slope of scary-future stuff like the US Government, US Corporations or other agencies being able to use that technology to track kids' locations in ways that violate their right to privacy. Even if the tracking was for things as innocent as being able to target them for future advertising or using the data to track health patterns with location data, it still just seems creepy to me. We’ve already seen Governments and Corporations use mobile-phone location and usage data without user permission, so I think it’s not unreasonable to surmise it would happen with implanted chips.

There is also the right to privacy thing when it comes to me… that is, as a parent. I’m not sure if it sets the right sort of precedent or sends the right kind of message to children that parents need to be able to track their location all the time. Shouldn’t there be trust boundaries that give them the benefit of a level of trust and give them the opportunity to decide how honest and forthright they want to be? If they know they are chipped, we’re effectively taking that opportunity away from them. So that needs to be taken into consideration as well.

At the same time, hundreds of children do go missing every year in the United States, and of course, it would be a nightmare for every parent ever having a missing child they are powerless to help locate. So I do understand the argument. If chipping my kids would make it easier for authorities to identify if they are missing, would I at least consider it?

A survey in 2018 found that fully 20% of Parents taking their pre-teen children to a theme park were worried about the risk of kidnapping. A more recent survey also found that trust among Americans was at an all-time low, with only 32% of respondents indicating that “most people can generally be trusted.”

That is down from over 50% just 40 years ago, so Americans certainly trust most people they meet less than they used to. We've lost faith in each other.

Perhaps the deciding factor to consider is what we allow ourselves to be afraid of, and whether entertaining those fears is worth the proportionate loss of freedom?

Statistically speaking, of course, our kids are likely in more danger of kidnapping at home and by someone they know, usually a family member. They’re in more overall danger driving to and from a Theme Park than they are at the Theme Park.

No less than Tim Ballard, the subject of the recent hit independent film Sound of Freedom about child sex trafficking, recently spoke out utterly against chipping kids. And that’s a man who knows the dangers firsthand.

The question of chipping our kids is for each parent to decide, but as always, it's a gamble with so-called peace of mind that so often comes with too a heavy price.

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