Big Brother Watches Your Grandma

Good Morning America ran a clip about how we’re using technology to keep tabs on Alzheimer’s patients. Verichip is a small barcode you inject into an old person that contains all their medical history. Another method for Alzheimer’s patients living at home is a system of motion sensors to monitor their movements. The technologies have been useful in tracking pets, but privacy advocates say that’s precisely the problem.


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  1. clickertrainer says:

    I have no problem with it. My mother would wander out of the house, and forget how to open the (unlocked) door. Once she was standing in the rain for 20 minutes before we found her. She needed to be watched every second. It was upsetting for her to be watched like a toddler, but necessary. A tracking device, had it been available, would have allowed her some dignity while ensuring her safety.

    Chip me anytime.

  2. bonzombiekitty says:

    I’m fairly sure the chip does not hold all your medical information. Rather, it has an ID that can is queried against a database.

  3. Cowboys_fan says:

    As long as this remains voluntary then I see no problem with it. Unfortunately these people forget alot. To me, its no different than a medic alert bracelet.

  4. 2Legit2Quit says:

    I definitely am okay with it. My grandmother was diagnosed with Parkinsons and Alzheimers and keeping tabs on her was very difficult. She refused to move into a nursing home and was living by herself in Burlington City. There would be times we’d come over and she had left the stove on, or left the phone off the hook. Just scary stuff.

    Finally, we forced her into an assisted living program, but with this she possibly could have stayed by herself for a little longer.

  5. astrochimp says:

    “The technologies have been useful in tracking pets, but privacy advocates say that’s precisely the problem.”

    Yes, tracking pets is indeed a grave problem. I lose sleep at night because some pet, somewhere, is being tracked.

  6. Harling says:

    If it’s voluntary, I’m all for it.

    From a local headline this week: []

    “Body of Missing Alzheimer’s Patient Found in Crabtree Creek”

    Of course, a chip like this wouldn’t help as it doesn’t seem to have GPS tracking, but I think the story serves as an example of how unpredictable this infliction can be and such an advance may help curb potential misadventures in willing patients.

  7. bluesunburn says:

    I work as a geriatric social worker, and often have clients with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

    Depending on the type of information and intended uses of the chip, I don’t see much of a problem with it.

    (Of course, the decision to be chipped should be made by the chippee if possible, or their legal Power of Attorney. If a nursing home decided to arbitrarily chip everyone, that’d be problematic.)

  8. jaredgood1 says:

    When we all get these, I demand they deliver an electric shock to those take the last of the coffee and don’t start a new pot.

  9. OnceWasCool says:


  10. mac-phisto says:

    it’s not a tracking device – it simply holds a device that can be checked against a medical database. it’s like the chip that matt damon had in his back in the 1st bourne movie (kind of…except it doesn’t need to be surgically removed & isn’t a class 2 laser device).

  11. bonzombiekitty says:

    @mac-phisto: Well it can be a tracking device under certain circumstances, particularly indoors. Sensors set up, just like an RFID badge sensor at many places of work, can at least pick up which room a person with a chip is in and report it to some tracking application. So it may be useful for knowing if a given patient has left the house.

    Outside? Nope. Not without a very sophisticated sensor system as well as a high throughput back end system, which would probably be cost prohibitive. If you’re really worried about be tracked, it’s your cellphone you have to worry about.

  12. Craig says:

    What on earth would we do without the privacy advocates (apart from living safer and better lives)?

  13. Sir Winston Thriller says:

    I’d love one for my father. We live in a city but the yard butts up to a local wetland and the Winooski River. I can’t tell you how many stories are in the local press that are about an alzheimer’s patient who wandered away into the Green Mountains…

  14. mac-phisto says:

    @bonzombiekitty: you’re right. the convo seemed to be swaying towards the idea that you could entertain your co-workers by watching grandma wander the neighborhood on the net. so, track in home via sensors; yes. track grandma on the lam; no.

    @Craig: well for one, i don’t need to deal with g-men demanding “show me your papers!” in a russian accent. that is, until READ ID goes into effect.

  15. suburbancowboy says:

    If you truly are worried about the Orwellian possibilities of a scenario like this, you can go with much lower tech method called an Id bracelet. RoadID makes several affordable bracelets and ID tags for runners and cyclists which help them in the event of an accident.
    They can also be made with specific instructions on how to access the medical records for the person wearing the bracelet, via a serial and pin on the bracelet.

  16. alteredcarbon says:

    craig said:
    What on earth would we do without the privacy advocates[…]

    Well, craig, since you asked, if not for privacy advocates, you would have been chipped without your knowledge or consent a very long time ago. And every single one of your personally identifying documents, including your driver’s license, would have been RFID’d as well.

    In fact, right this moment, Montana, Maine and other states have already passed bills that they won’t be complying with the RealID Act because this undebated, unquestioned, unpublicized bill passed by the chuckleheads in Congre$$ is the ultimate wet dream of ID thieves. But what’s that you say? You don’t know anything about RFID technology, what it’s being used for or even what the RealID Act is? What a shame. Perhaps you should remove the rose colored glasses you’ve apparently been wearing all of your life to remain blissfully ignorant of current events and the advocation of privacy against an increasingly totalitarian federal government hellbent on making American society 100% surveilled 100% of the time.

  17. Voyou_Charmant says:

    Helpful or not this is another prime example of social conditioning.

    The more we are pushed towards using RF id tags for purposes that are difficult to argue against (Track your kids! track crazy old people! track sex offenders! track murders!) the more accepting and tolerant we become of them chipping us as well.

    If they rolled out legislation that required everyone have RF ID chips implanted within the year, there would be massive resistance, but if they implement it in more socially acceptable ways that we feel more comfortable with — be it for the undesirables or your grandfather who likes to go on adventures without his pants or by placing them in IDs, passports and credit cards, we become more comfortable with the idea of it.

    If you want to sacrifice your liberty and privacy for convenience, that’s fine. I mean hey — you’re a no body, your not doing anything wrong, you’re not going against the stream you’re not complaining; so you have nothing to worry about.

  18. Voyou_Charmant says:


    I used the wrong your/you’re, i also said “no body” instead of “nobody”.


  19. I think we need better and affordable options for caring for the elderly instead of tagging them. thisaintsweettea is right about the slippery slope and it is especially worrying when talking about children.

  20. RottNDude says:

    “Verichip is a small barcode you inject into an old person that contains all their medical history.”

    Wrong. Verichip is an implantable RFID tag that does not contain anything but an identification number which is tied to a database on some computer.

  21. quagmire0 says:

    Wow. If I could only use the same technology to figure out where I parked…

  22. kbarrett says:

    So … if the police pick up a confused elderly person, will they take that person to the county animal shelter for scanning?

    If I get my Mark of the Beast early, can I have a vanity number?

  23. ElizabethD says:

    Having overseen the care of a parent (now deceased) with dementia, and dealt with numerous doctors’ offices, nursing homes, assisted-living centers, psychiatric hospital, ad nauseam, I can only say I wish this Verichip had existed in time for my dad’s final years.

  24. Whammbo says:

    First Animals then old people then, us? First voluntary, then not? Mark of the Beast indeed. The bible always seems to turn out right regarding things…

  25. aikoto says:


    I’m sorry, but if you don’t have a problem with implants, you don’t know enough about it. Besides the privacy problems, implanted RFID can be cloned (easily) and they have a nasty tendancy to tunnel through the flesh when exposed to magnetic fields (like an MRI). If you’re satisfied that your mother will never in her life need an MRI again, go for it I suppose, but keep in mind, there’s no case where an RFID implant is used where an external RFID chip couldn’t be used instead.

  26. aikoto says:

    Your point is valid, but lets remember that with data sharing and brokering, the number on the chip and the data that goes with it are basically the same thing. Even assuming someone hasn’t hacked or bought the database, the number alone is enough to track you.

  27. aikoto says:


    If you throw a frog into a boiling pan of water, he’ll jump out, but if you put him in the pan and raise the temperature slowly, he’ll stay there and die.

  28. aikoto says:


    Not everything that’s “voluntary” truly is voluntary. Do you have a choice not to have a social security number? Do you have a choice not to have an RFID passport? Do you have a choice to buy organic, natural foods without processing and chemicals?

    The answer to everything is technically, yes, you have a choice, but in reality, do you have the time, the money, and the conviction to do these things? Probably not.

  29. aikoto says:


    Focus on the subtleties. Most people are arguing that chips can be useful for certain patients and that’s true. But IMPLANTS are another issue entirely!

  30. aikoto says:


    Good response! But let’s not forget the other things privacy groups do for us like expose e-voting, fight our legal battles in cases like the RIAA and the illegal spying, and keep tabs on illegal and imoral practices by both business and the government.

    Who would do this stuff if they didn’t?

  31. aikoto says:


    I can’t stand the “nothing to hide” argument. Read my rebuttal to this often used, and always wrong argument here:


  32. rmz says:

    @Whammo: “The bible always seems to turn out right regarding things…”

    Except for just about everything.

  33. Whammbo says:



  34. Voyou_Charmant says:


    You dont have to tell me. Read the whole second part of my post. I agree. The “nothing to hide argument” is ridiculous.