References to a 1970s television show and Adolf Hitler were made Wednesday before the state Senate Pensions and Labor Committee approved, in a 9-1 vote, a bill related to device implantation as a condition of employment.
The bill, which was unanimously approved by the Indiana House of Representatives, would prohibit employers from requiring a potential employee or current employee “to have a device implanted or otherwise incorporated into the candidate’s body as a condition of employment," or when being considered for a promotion or for “additional compensation or benefits."
State Sen. Jon Ford, R-Terre Haute, one of the bill sponsors, told the Senate committee Wednesday that other states, such as California, and other countries, such as Sweden, that have seen an increase in people implanting microchips “the size of a grain of rice” to access their house, phones and cars.
In response, some states and countries have started considering regulations on the use of data gathered, Ford said. Indiana should consider similar action with the proposed bill, he said.
“It’s just trying to put some regulation on it so that people can retain their freedoms,” Ford said.
In recent years, BioTeq, an England-based company, has implanted at least 150 employees with microchips. BioTeq has also shipped microchips to companies in Spain, France, Germany, Japan and China, according to published reports.
Biohax International a Swedish company, makes chip implants and has approached British legal and financial firms about implanting microchips in their employees, according to published reports.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, microchips implanted into pets do not pose a threat to the owner’s privacy because the only information stored is the animal’s contact information.
State Sen. Chip Perfect, R-Lawrenceburg, said that because employees could voluntarily get microchips, it seems the bill is “ahead of the curve.” Perfect ultimately voted against it.
“I want to make sure we’re not going to get ahead of technological advances,” Perfect said.
Ford assured the committee that the bill, if signed into law, “won’t stop us from coming back in 20 years” to revisit the bill if there are technological advances.
The Indiana legislature will have to come back to revisit the bill way before 20 years pass because of technological advances, said Indiana’s Building Trades Unions Executive Director Pete Rimsans.
Rimsans said he refers to the bill “as the Col. Steve Austin bill," in honor of the 1970s television series “The Six Million Dollar Man,” in which the main character, Lee Majors, is given bionic limbs and implants.
Governments and corporations could soon be dealing with lawsuits related to device implantation, Rimsans said. He gave the example of an employee losing an arm in an accident, a corporation paying for the employee to receive a robotic arm and then the employee quitting after a month.
In that situation, Rimsans said, there will be a legal question of “who owns that arm?”
“I expect technological advances,” Rimsans said. “It should be the free will of the individual.”
State Sen. John Crane, R-Avon, said the “moral and ethical issues" around the bill are “huge" because it is not yet clear how implants are being tracked.
“Imagine what Nazi Germany would be like if technology like this was in the hands of Adolf Hitler,” Crane said.
Katie Blair, director of advocacy and public policy for ACLU Indiana, said the organization supports the bill because as technology advances “our digital footprint can be tracked" by the government and corporations.
“We believe no Hoosier should give up their privacy as a condition of employment,” Blair said.
State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, told the Post-Tribune the bill is a “feel good bill” because it is difficult to support implanting microchips as a condition of employment. She did not vote on the microchip bill because she left the committee meeting early to attend a house committee that was considering a bill she proposed.
Tallian said she has not heard of any businesses in Indiana requiring microchips as a condition of employment, so she’s not sure why the bill has been proposed.
“It looks like a solution looking for a problem,” Tallian said.
The bill will move on to the full Senate for consideration.