Homeless in the Range

Rumor: The government is planning to track the homeless by implanting them with RFID chips.


Claim:   The U.S. government has announced plans to track homeless persons by implanting them with RFID chips.


FALSE


Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2004]

HHS announces program to implant RFID tags in homeless

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.

[Click here to expand text].
 

Origins:   Despite public unease over the increasing use of miniaturized Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) devices to keep track of objects (such as a store's inventory) and concerns about privacy-related issues (including the notion RFID devices could be used to track people as well), the fear that the U.S. government has announced a plan to
keep track of the country's homeless population by implanting them with RFID tags is unfounded

The article quoted above, which reports the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is planning to implement a pilot program under which "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," was an April Fool's joke posted to the Politech mailing list on 1 April 2004, whence it spread throughout the Internet, taking in many readers with its journalistic prose and phony United Press International (UPI) attribution.

A number of embarrassed readers fooled by the hoax vainly tried to point to an HHS press release as "proof" the spoof article was substantively true, but that press release dealt only with an effort to improve the management of data on the homeless and coordinate various social agencies' filing systems, not any scheme to implant RFID chips in the homeless.

Last updated:   4 January 2015


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