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 http://pittsburgh.indymedia.org/news/2004/04/13377.php

Forced Injected Microchips For Homeless
by LPJ . Tuesday April 06, 2004 at 08:55 PM


WASHINGTON (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday that 
it was about to begin testing a new technology designed to help more closely monitor and 
assist the nation's homeless population.Under the pilot program, which grew out of a 
series of policy academies held in the last two years, homeless people in participating 
cities will be implanted with mandatory Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags that 
social workers and police can use track their movements.  

WASHINGTON (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday that 
it was about to begin testing a new technology designed to help more closely monitor and 
assist the nation's homeless population.Under the pilot program, which grew out of a 
series of policy academies held in the last two years, homeless people in participating 
cities will be implanted with mandatory Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags that 
social workers and police can use track their movements.  

The RFID technology was developed by HHS' Health Resources and Services Administration 
(HRSA) in partnership with five states, including California and New York. "This is a 
rare opportunity to use advanced technology to meet society's dual objectives of better 
serving our homeless population while making our cities safer," HRSA Administrator Betty 
James Duke said.  

The miniscule RFID tags are no larger than a matchstick and will be implanted 
subdermally, meaning under the skin. Data from RFID tracking stations mounted on 
telephone poles will be transmitted to police and social service workers, who will use 
custom Windows NT software to track movements of the homeless in real time.In what has 
become a chronic social problem, people living in shelters and on the streets do not seek 
adequate medical care and frequently contribute to the rising crime rate in major cities. 
 

Supporters of subdermal RFID tracking say the technology will discourage implanted 
homeless men and women from committing crimes, while making it easier for government 
workers to provide social services such as delivering food and medicine.Duke called the 
RFID tagging pilot program "a high-tech, minimally-intrusive way for the government to 
lift our citizens away from the twin perils of poverty and crime." Participating cities 
include New York City, San Francisco, Washington, and Bethlehem, Penn.  

Participating states will receive grants of $14 million to $58 million from the federal 
Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH) program, which was created 
under the McKinney Act to fund support services for the homeless. A second phase of the 
project, scheduled to be completed in early 2005, will wirelessly transmit live 
information on the locations of homeless people to handheld computers running the Windows 
CE operating system.A spokesman for the National Coalition for the Homeless, which 
estimates that there are between 2.3 million and 3.5 million people experiencing 
homelessness nationwide, said the pilot program could be easily abused.  

"We have expressed our tentative support for the idea to HRSA, but only if it includes 
privacy safeguards," the spokesman said. "So far it's unclear whether those safeguards 
will actually be in place by roll-out."Chris Hoofnagle, deputy director of the Electronic 
Privacy Information Center, said the mandatory RFID program would be vulnerable to a 
legal challenge. "It is a glaring violation of the Tenth Amendment, which says that 
powers not awarded to the government are reserved to the people, and homeless people have 
just as many Tenth Amendment rights as everyone else," said Hoofnagle, who is speaking 
about homeless privacy at this month's Computers Freedom and Privacy conference in 
Berkeley, Calif.  

While HRSA's program appears to be the first to forcibly implant humans with RFID tags, 
the technology is becoming more widely adopted as retailers use it to track goods. Wal-
Mart Stores said last year that it will require its top 100 suppliers to place RFID tags 
on shipping crates and pallets by January 2005.Copyright  2001-2004 United Press 
International  

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