Saturday, May 16, 2009

An e-commerce barcode 'tattoo'

By Jon E. Dougherty

A patent has been issued for a technique enabling an invisible tattoo to be placed under the skin of a consumer purchasing goods and services online, according to a report published by computer giant Compaq.

The patented procedure, titled, "Method For Verifying Human Identity During Electronic Sale Transactions," was developed by Houston inventor Thomas W. Heeter. His patent -- bearing U.S. Patent No. 5,878,155 and granted in March, 1999 -- "describes how people can be identified for eCommerce transactions by invisible barcodes tattooed on their skin." The patent identifies invisible tattoo ink that is currently available commercially, according to the Compaq report.

According to Heeter's abstract, "a barcode or a design is tattooed on an individual. Before the sales transaction can be consummated, the tattoo is scanned with a scanner."

"Characteristics about the scanned tattoo are compared to characteristics about other tattoos stored on a computer database in order to verify the identity of the buyer," the abstract says. "Once verified, the seller may be authorized to debit the buyer's electronic bank account in order to consummate the transaction. The seller's electronic bank account may be similarly updated."

Heeter could not be reached for comment. But his research comes on the heels of other so-called biotechnology that has been widely criticized by industry officials and private organizations, claiming such innovations -- which ultimately must be stored on a central computer system -- are too easily abused and exploited.

One industry source, speaking with WorldNetDaily on the condition of anonymity, said Heeter's technology would be difficult to apply to e-commerce.

"Personally, I don't see what advantages an invisible tattoo would bring," the source said. "The PC or other Internet access device would still require a device to 'read' the tattoo. It is no different than having to swipe a credit card over a PC -- no anonymity, and the information is available to any hacker."

Yet, with Internet e-commerce figures spiraling upward, and the European market expected to surpass the U.S. online community in a couple of years, potential sales online have been projected to reach nearly $1 trillion by 2003. However, according to some critics of the barcode technology, one sure way to stifle the growth of Internet sales is to require people to be tattooed with a barcode.

The latest innovations in the field of implantable barcode technology, first reported by WorldNetDaily in July, indicate a growing trend among governmental and business leaders to track commerce -- if not the actual buying habits and movement of persons on a global scale.