Politician Wants to 'Get Chipped'
By Julia Scheeres
2:00 a.m. Feb. 15, 2002 PST
A Brazilian legislator wants to become the first politician to be implanted with a controversial microchip that would contain his personal information.
" I want to demonstrate to the citizens of Brazil and the world that this technology is safe, " Antonio de Cunha Lima, a federal minister from the state of São Paulo, said Thursday. " I believe in supporting the advance of science and technology. I want to be the first Brazilian to be chipped. I want to be the first politician to be chipped. "
Cunha Lima said he plans be implanted with the VeriChip as soon as it is approved for use in Brazil. He added that he is interested in pursuing a joint venture between the chip's manufacturer, Applied Digital Solutions, and the company he presides over, Central Brasileira de Negocios.
The microchip, which is slightly larger than a grain of rice, stores six lines of text and 128 characters and emits a 125-kHz radio frequency signal that is detected by a special scanner up to four feet away. It is similar to the biochips that are used to identify pets and livestock.
Last week, a Florida family announced its desire to become the first family in the world to be implanted with the VeriChip once it is greenlighted by the Food and Drug Administration.
The chip maker, based in Palm Beach, Florida, is marketing the VeriChip as a medical and a security device.
People with chronic diseases, for example, could have chips encoded with their health histories and the name of their primary physician so hospital workers could simply scan their bodies in an emergency and access their medical records.
In South America, the chip is being commercialized as a way to identify kidnapping victims who are drugged, unconscious or dead. In that market, the chip is being bundled with the company's personal GPS device, Digital Angel, so police are able to track the abduction victim's location as well.
Cunha Lima, a veteran politician who has served in public office for more than 22 years, said he is interested in the VeriChip for its potential as a kidnapping deterrent.
" I believe this technology will contribute to the public safety and security of Brazilians, " he said. " I believe this technology will act to deter the shocking rise of kidnapping in our cities and particularly the abhorrent kidnapping of the children of businessmen. "
Abductions in Brazil have soared in recent years, according to the Brazilian media, and bands of young men roam the streets of major cities targeting drivers of luxury cars and business owners.
The city of São Paulo, the capital of the state of São Paulo and home to 17 million, is the kidnapping capital of Brazil. Last year, 251 people were kidnapped compared to 39 in 2000 and 13 in 1999, according to the secretary of public security.
Since its announcement last December, the VeriChip has stirred the public's imagination. While company officials have been bombarded with e-mails from teenagers who think the device is cool and want to get chipped, others worry that the device will someday be required identification.
Additionally, some Christians believe the technology could be the feared " mark of the beast " warned of in the Bible.
Applied Digital Solutions has lobbied to assuage the concerns of privacy advocates and Christians by appearing on the Christian talk show The 700 Club and by emphasizing the benefits of the device.
" People are crying for security and safety. This chip could help save lives, " said Keith Bolton, the company's chief of technology. He added that privacy concerns are a moot point: " You turn the (GPS) device off; you elect to have it. "
Cunha Lima coincided: " While I am concerned with a potential invasion of privacy, the use of this new technology is voluntary and not mandatory. If one chooses to 'be chipped,' then one has considered the consequences of that action. "
Last week, Applied Digital Solutions applied for a trademark for the terms " get chipped " and " The Chipsons " -- the latter in reference to the Florida family.