ANNAPOLIS — Big Brother may always be watching, but if a Frederick County lawmaker has his way, at least that won’t lead to you being forced to get implanted with a microchip.
Sen. Ron Young (D-District 3) testified in support of Senate Bill 944 before the Senate Finance Committee. The bill would prevent employers and the state government from requiring or coercing anyone to be implanted with an identification device.
The premise of Young’s bill may sound like the plot of a science fiction film, but proponents say it addresses a very real issue. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of RFID chip implants in humans since October 2004.
There are no known instances of Maryland entities using microchips, according to an analysis from the Department of Legislative Services. However, the Wisconsin self-serve snack kiosk company Three Square Market became the first U.S. company to offer RFID chips to employees in 2017, according to the analysis. The implanted IDs allow employees to open doors, make break room purchases and log in to computers.
“It’s proactive legislation. To our knowledge, Maryland has no organization that is implanting its workers right now, but new technologies are providing new means of monitoring workers,” Young said.
He said that the chips have been used in Sweden to track medical records, allow access to public transportation, and more.
As of the start of this year, several U.S. states, including California, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Wisconsin, have prohibited the mandatory implantation of a chip.
If Young’s proposal is passed into law, it would allow someone who was mandatorily implanted to sue those responsible, leaving them to face a civil penalty of up to $10,000 plus an additional $1,000 for each day the chip remains implanted.
Nothing in the bill stops someone from being voluntarily microchipped, Young said.
“If you want to put one in so your wife can check where you are, that’s up to you,” he joked.
Joanna Diamond, speaking for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, but also testifying on behalf of the Libertarian Party of Maryland, said the proposal was an important way to stay ahead of technology.
“The invention of new technologies is going to continue. We know this. But it’s also clear that the development of these technologies outpaces our capacity to regulate or legislate around this technology,” she said.
Sen. J.B. Jennings (R-Harford) raised concerns about how the bill could affect the medical community, asking if a pacemaker would become a banned device. Diamond stressed that the proposal is meant to apply to corporations and the government, so it shouldn’t affect medical care providers.
Young said that he had changed his bill to clarify that nothing about it would change laws regarding guardianship of children or dependent adults.
Committee Chairman Sen. Thomas M. “Mac” Middleton (D-Charles) said that someone with Alzheimer’s disease may opt into an ID implant to help be reconnected with loved ones in case of emergency, and that would possibly require a guardian’s consent.
The House Health and Government Operations Committee heard testimony earlier this week, but has not yet voted on a cross-filed bill from Delegate Dana Stein (D-Baltimore County).
A similar bill was voted down by the House Economic Matters Committee in 2008.