Legislators are considering a bill that would prevent Iowa companies and government agencies from forcing employees to be “microchipped” and tracked like some pet owners are now doing with their dogs and cats.
Proponents of the practice say it’s about convenience, letting people use the microchip in their hands to enter work spaces, and it’s about security, by keeping workers out of restricted areas. Critics say the chips could be used to track employees when they’re not at work.
Charlie Wishman of the Iowa Federation of Labor says a ban on such implants makes sense.
“Microchipping people is kind of a bizarre requirement,” Wishman says. “I mean if you can’t make joining a union a condition of employment, implanting cybernetics in people seems like a bridge too far.”
Daniel Zeno of the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa says his group is pleased the bill applies to private businesses as well as cities, school districts, counties and state government.
“We really care about that,” he says, “and so we think this is a good way to make sure that the government, in particular, doesn’t require people to have a chip implanted into them.”
Representative Joe Mitchell of Wayland says no employee should be forced to get a chip implanted.
“I think it’s creepy,” he says. “I think it’s a good bill.”
The bill has cleared its first hurdle in the Iowa House and is eligible for debate in a House committee. Representative Jennifer Konfrst of Windsor Heights supports the concept.
“I do like the idea that people have a right to do what they want to do with their own bodies,” Konfrst says. “Body autonomy is really important and hope we extend this concept to other legislation this session.”
Seven states have a ban on inserting microchips in any human. Four states have banned employers from making the implants mandatory for workers. Sixteen years ago the federal government approved using implanted microchips for medical purposes.
In 2017, many employees at a Wisconsin company voluntarily had microchips the size of a grain of rice implanted in their hands. The workers are able to swipe their hands on security pads — and even use the chips to pay for food in the company cafeteria.