Friday, August 26, 2011

What Was In Your Wallet?

Every once in a while a new piece of technology comes along that promises new opportunities. Case in point: a couple of weeks ago, a few articles came out about a new "epidermal electronics system". The system consisted of flexible circuits that could be placed on human skin in the form of a patch, and could have a wide range of uses from medical testing to gaming to monitoring.

Along with this technology announcement came some commentary on whether it was the "mark of the beast" or not. Truth is, there have been (and probably always will be) numerous candidates for this distinction already, such as implantable RFID chips. What's interesting, though, is the repeating pattern that these technology releases seem to take.

First, the application often starts off with something really beneficial, such as medical uses. Then, there is often a shift to tracking the elderly (for Alzheimer's or dementia patients for example) and then maybe the suggestion that the technology could be used to track children (to prevent abductions). Throw in some suggestions for inventory control uses (i.e. tracking of warehouse products) and then the idea of "let's use this for our monetary system!" appears like clockwork.

Although this sounds like a technically advanced way of solving multiple problems at once, let's look at some ongoing isseus first.

Identity theft and data breaches are still on the rise.

If you look at some recent news articles (here, here, here, and here) you can see the numbers involved in recent data breaches are incredible. The variety of targets also is increasing along with the numbers involved in each incident. In any given week, you can probably find articles that point to thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of individual accounts getting hit or information being stolen. Has every one of those potential victims been notified by the institutions involved? It's doubtful.

Quantity over quality.

For all the emphasis placed on "security" and privacy notices being sent to all their customers, some institutions are still a little more concerned about processing transactions in volume rather than getting the information right. Ever check your credit report? It doesn't take much to find unusual things appearing on it, and unfortunately, the only advocate for getting that changed is you. And, as if to make it worse, the burden of proof rests on you, the consumer, to prove that a particular transaction is not yours.

Encryption buys time.

With the every increasing prevalence of powerful computers in the hands of consumers, coupled with the widespread increase in online purchasing, the risks for seeing commerce websites getting hit increase dramatically. Although encryption is great, not every retailer uses it, and many don't realize that an algorithm that works today could potentially be cracked tomorrow. It's an ongoing race for researchers, and all that encryption is going to do is to ultimately buy the retailer time.

The bottom line is this: just because a new technology surfaces, it does not automatically mean that the underlying problems that exist in society are going to be solved overnight. No, in fact, all it pretty much does is push the issues into new realms where anything goes and it's anybody's guess how it will all play out in time. Identity theft is not going away, and giving everybody a chip on their hand (or forehead) is not going to change that.

Besides, there is more involved in the whole "mark of the beast" issue anyway, and that can be found in Revelation 14:9-10 which reads:
"Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation.""
(There are actually multiple verses that deal with this issue...Revelation 13:17, 14:9-11, 15:2, 16:2, 19:20, and 20:4 for starters).

Although the oft-quoted Revelation 13:7 implies a financially based "mark", there is an implication of worship along with it. In short, a lot of other things have to come together before pronouncing an individual technology as "the mark". That said, there are plenty of other factors already in play that should give those implementing such technologies and those accepting them pause for thought.

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