The Future

When the government deactivates your implant

Should your transit card chip be invalid just because it’s under your skin?

The Future

When the government deactivates your implant

Should your transit card chip be invalid just because it’s under your skin?
The Future

When the government deactivates your implant

Should your transit card chip be invalid just because it’s under your skin?

The New South Wales government has deactivated a transit pass that one of its users implanted into his own body — a decision the self-proclaimed biohacker says he’ll fight in court.

The biohacker, whose legal name is Meow-Ludo Disco Gamma Meow-Meow and who is the co-founder of a biohacking space in Sydney called BioFoundry, removed the chip from the transit card, encased it in plastic and had a piercing expert embed it in his left hand this past April, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Authorities in New South Wales, a state on the eastern coast of Australia that includes Sydney, where Meow-Meow lives, immediately vowed to cancel the card, citing rules that cards couldn’t be tampered with. But because the chip implanted in his hand wasn’t registered to him by name, they didn’t make good on that threat until this past weekend, when Meow-Meow returned from a Texas "cyborg convention" to discover that he could no longer swipe his card on public transit. Now he’s pledging to sue to reactivate the chip.

“This is case law in creation and it's fun to be at the centre of this,” Meow-Meow told the Herald. “This is a scenario so unusual that their lawyers never foresaw this happening because, if they did, they would have written it in there.”

Biohackers, from people who implant RFID chips into their bodies to a colorblind man who uses a chip implant to "hear" colors, have started to raise new legal issues. Some thinkers have called for a legal framework for augmenting the human brain. Part of the question is where the line falls between biohacking and acceptable medical support of human bodies; birth control, for instance, could be considered a form of biohacking.

Meow-Meow was previously scheduled to appear in a Sydney court in March to fight a $200 fine for riding a train without a valid ticket. Before his chip was deactivated, Meow-Meow said that he could top up the card’s balance using his smartphone — though he sometimes had to swipe it multiple times for it to register. He’s also said that he has two other implants in his body, one of which he uses to store important documents.

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