Georgia Rep. Ed Setzler, a supporter of SB 235, the Microchip Consent Act of 2010, conceded in a meeting of the state's Judiciary Committee last week that he was unaware of any evidence that microchips had actually been implanted in anyone without their consent, but said the legislation was "proactive." Implanting microchips against someone's will, he said, is "such a profound violation of someone's privacy" -- or at least it would be, if and when it ever happens -- that "we want to do something before it starts being enacted on the fringe." I like the phrase "enacted on the fringe" for this story, but he's using it wrong.
The bill would amend the state's current battery statute, although there is little question that the current statute would already preclude nonconsensual microchip-implanting. "Microchip" is defined to include "any microdevice, sensor, transmitter, mechanism, electronically readable marking, or nanotechnology that is passively or actively capable of transmitting or receiving information." Interestingly, pacemakers are excluded from this definition, so those of you who have been worrying that somebody might stick a pacemaker in you without asking should stay on your toes.
Setzler sponsored a similar bill last year, HB 38, which had much stronger penalties, but that did not become law. SB 235, a watered-down measure that makes nonconsensual microchipping a misdemeanor, passed the state Senate on a 47-2 vote, and was favorably reported out of the relevant House committee on April 14th. It got out of that committee despite, not because of, testimony on its behalf, as Journal-Constitution blogger Jim Galloway reported:
At the House hearing, state Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Kennesaw), who is shouldering the legislation in the House, spoke earnestly for better than a half hour on microchips as a literal invasion of privacy.
He was followed by a hefty woman who described herself as a resident of DeKalb County. "I'm also one of the people in Georgia who has a microchip," the woman said. [Uh-oh.]
Microchips, the woman began, "infringe on issues that are fundamental to our very existence. Our rights to privacy, our rights to bodily integrity, the right to say no to foreign objects being put in our body." [Well, that makes sense.]
She spoke of the "right to work without being tortured by co-workers who are activating these microchips by using their cell phones and other electronic devices." [Um . . .]
She continued. "Microchips are like little beepers. Just imagine, if you will, having a beeper in your rectum or genital area, the most sensitive area of your body. [Oh, dear.] And your beeper numbers displayed on billboards throughout the city. All done without your permission."
While this was going on, "Setzler, the sponsoring lawmaker, sat next to the witness – his head bowed."
Remarkably, despite this direct evidence of how loony this concern really is -- the woman said that "researchers" with the Department of Defense had implanted her microchip and that she had been pursuing a court case for years to try to get it removed -- the committee then voted to approve the bill and send it on to the full House.
If it passes the House and is signed by the governor (to his credit, that does not appear likely), Georgia would become the fourth state in which laws prohibit microchipping. North Dakota, Wisconsin, and California (which I can assure you has more important things to worry about) are also on that list. Virginia's legislature has considered, but not yet passed, similar legislation. There, a supporter declared that microchips were the "mark of the Beast" mentioned in the Book of Revelations. If the Georgia experience is any guide, that legislation should sail right through.