|A lot seems to be happening, but there is a huge rotting elephant in the room that is rightfully getting a lot of comment, so here’s my bit, (re-blogged from my new newsletter)|
This blog is about Digital ID Cards, aka COVID Passports.
Most of the government activity around lifting lockdown and trying to keep all the powers has been highly suspicious. It’s like they realize this is their best chance for a long time to force digital identity cards on us. Ordinary identity cards have been discussed several times before and always rejected, for very good reason, but now with the idea of a ‘COVID passport’, they think they can sneak them digital identity cards through on the back of that, a classic ‘bait and switch’ con. Offer a pass to get into the pub, and then give them a full-blown, high spec, and permanent digital ID card.
First, the bait isn’t as tasty as promised. It can’t and won’t guarantee you aren’t carrying COVID so the headline sales pitch is deliberately deceptive. At best, it can show that you passed a test fairly recently, so you are a bit less likely to pass on COVID, so we’ll tell pubs to let you in. If the pub is only one place you’ve been since your test, you may well have picked up some viruses en-route that you could infect others with. Any surface you’ve recently touched might have transferred viruses to you, that you might transfer to any surface you touch in the pub. The test could also have been a false negative, saying you’re clean when you aren’t. So the bait isn’t all that tasty after all.
As for the switch, make no mistake, if government manages to force through ‘COVID passports’, you will have a full-blown digital ID card for the rest of your life. Even in the unlikely event that Boris kept his promise that the COVID passports will expire after a year, the data collected about you by government, the big IT companies, and the authorities will never be destroyed. We already have history of some police forces illegally obtaining and keeping DNA records. Why should we assume all authorities and companies will comply 100% with any future directive that goes against their interests?
Loss of privacy, lack of fairness, social exclusion and tribal conflicts are just some of the first issues, leading quickly on to totalitarianism.
Lots of totally unrelated functionality will be included even from the start, which will quickly be added to as technology permits, and forever keep you under extreme surveillance and government control, never to be free ever again or ever again to have any real privacy or freedom of speech. We will very soon have Chinese style blanket surveillance and social credit scores.
Think about it. Given that the card can’t guarantee safety anyway, given that you’re already very unlikely to die from COVID, surely the simple card you got when you were vaccinated would be quite enough? Sure, it doesn’t guarantee you are who it says (mine doesn’t even have my name on it), you might have borrowed it, but so what – going from a tiny risk to a slightly less tiny risk is surely not that big a deal? Surely that small reduction of risk implied by a proper COVID passport is not worth the enormous price of loss of privacy and liberty?
So it might let you go to the pub, but there is already no reason why you shouldn’t be allowed to, so that’s a false choice manufactured by government as leverage to make you accept it. The risk now is tiny. Anyone under 50 was never at any real risk, and all those over 50 have either been vaccinated or had the free choice, except an extremely small number who can’t for medical reasons. With the real risk of catching and dying from COVID already tiny, the government is already only keeping us locked down for reasons other than safety, to try to force us to accept digital ID cards as a condition of getting some freedom back, or the illusion of freedom back, temporarily.
OK, so what’s the big deal with having one? As the vaccines minister says (paraphrasing) what’s so bad about having a pass to get into the pub if it keep us all safe? In any case, you already have a passport. It has your full name, a photo that used to look like you, your date of birth and nationality. But it is paper, and even if it can be machine read at the airport, you don’t have to carry it everywhere. It can’t be read without you putting it within centimetres of a reader.
A digital ID card resides on your mobile phone, so location is one extra function that your passport doesn’t provide. It knows exactly where you are, and since those you are with also will need one, it will know who you are with, all the time. Very soon, government will know all your friends, family, colleagues and associates, how often and where you meet. Government will quickly build a full social map, detailing every citizen and how they relate to every other. If they have someone of interest, they can immediately identify everyone they have contact with. They will know everywhere you have been, by which means of transport. The photo will be recent too, probably far better quality than the one you took years ago for your passport. So if you attend a demonstration, they will know how you got there, what time you arrived, who you met with beforehand, which part of the crowd you were in, and together with surveillance cameras and advanced AI, be able to put together a pretty comprehensive picture of your behavior during that demonstration.
Another extra function is your medical status. That starts with your COVID status, but will also store details of your vaccine appointments, COVID tests, and a so far unspecified range of other medical data from the start. We can safely assume that will include the sort of stuff you are asked for every time you go near a clinic – your home address, NHS number and who your GP is, your age, your sex, your gender identity, your race, your religion, and various aspects of your medical history. Even if not included in the first release, government will argue that it is useful to include all sorts of extra medical data ‘to save you time’ and ‘for your convenience’, such as what drugs you are on, what medical conditions you have, what vulnerabilities you have and importantly, what risks you present to others. Using location, it can also infer your sexual preferences.
Obviously it then becomes even easier to insist that to ‘protect the NHS’ and ‘to keep you healthy’, that the app should also monitor your activity, and link to your Fitbit or Apple watch to make sure you do your best to stay in shape. Some health apps do that anyway and some people like that, because it’s part of their social activity, and they even get discount private medical care or free entertainment. But will that mean that if you don’t look after your health by exercising enough, that you go to the back of the queue for treatment, or for other government-provided services, or that you no longer get free dental care, or free eye checks, or free prescriptions. Maybe you won’t be able to buy a tube ticket if the destination is within walking distance, until your health improves. Maybe you will be told to go to the gym instead of the cinema or pub. Maybe if you do far too little exercise, you should pay more for prescriptions? Also, some people are killed by drunk driving, so if you have been in a pub or restaurant, or any place that sells alcohol, your car ignition will be deactivated until you submit a negative alcohol test. It’s very easy to see how these and many other functions can be bolted on once you have a digital ID card. Each will seem to have a reasonable enough justification if presented with enough spin, to make sure it gets implemented.
It doesn’t have to stop at health. Police will want to access data too, to ‘control crime’ and ‘ensure our safety’, and will then link to their various surveillance systems, and presumably with the same degree of political bias they routinely apply today, often pushing their own ideology rather than policing actual law. So, asking for microphone access and camera access, they could have tens of millions of cameras and microphones all over the country for blanket 360 degree 24/7 surveillance, using AI to sift through it to check for any potential hate crime for example, or detect any suspicious behavior patterns that might indicate a tendency towards a future crime. Minority report is only a fraction of what is possible.
These are the types of things already in place in China via their social credit system, though there are many other ‘features’ I haven’t listed too. It monitors people’s behaviors via various platforms, and then permits or denies access to various levels of services. If we get digital ID cards, it is inevitable that we will go the whole way down that same route.
Police and health authorities might both like your DNA record to be stored too. Then they can ensure you get the best possible health care, or quickly charge someone if any of their relatives has similar DNA to that found (for any reason) at the scene of any crime (real or perceived).
The power to monitor and control the population is irresistible to most politicians, certainly enough to get legislation through, and enough to ensure that powers are renewed every time they come up for review. If they come up for review. The government has already moved goalposts for restoration of our freedoms many times. At this point, it is becoming less and less likely we will ever get them back. If digital ID is voted through, or forced through by Johnson bypassing debate, then we will never be free again.
All the above dangers arise from government, which after all, we vote into power. They are supposed to be acting on our behalf to implement the things we vote for. Whether they are trying to do that now, or acting on external forces from the WEF, UN, China, Russia or other entities is anyone’s guess. What is certain though, is that with a government issued digital ID permanently on your phone, many bit IT companies will be very interested. Today, you can use any account and email address and it doesn’t need to be genuine. For a range of reasons, many people use fake identities for their Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, or Microsoft accounts. Friend and contact lists often bear little resemblance to the groups of people we actually hang out with. With a digital ID, the details are the ones on our birth certificates, the ones we have to share with government. Being able to create social maps would improve the ability to market enormously, so companies like Google and Facebook will love having access to genuine certified ID, and if that includes lots of other data too, even better. The ways you are marketed to, the quality of service you get, and even the prices you are charged will all change. To make a COVID passport at all useful, it will be necessary to allow other apps to access some or all of the data, and once that data has been accessed by the big IT companies, even if the passports later expire, it will be kept. There may be assurances that it will be wiped, but they cannot be guaranteed, and we know from history that companies (e.g. Google) may collect and use private data and then when caught claim that a junior employee must have done it by accident and without authorization.
With cancel culture and assorted activism accessing all this data too, the future could quickly become dystopian.The dangers of COVID passports are enormous. A nightmare police state lies ahead, with total surveillance, oppression, cancellation and social credit scores, tribal conflicts, social isolation, loneliness and general misery are simply too high a price for being ‘allowed’ to go to the pub.
We should just go anyway, it’s perfectly safe, and if government objects, we should change the government.
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I D Pearson BSc DSc(hc) FWAAS CITP MBCS
I’m an all-sector futurist specialising in creating futures material for PR campaigns and business strategy.
I am a Fellow of the World Academy for Arts and Science and Chartered Member of the British Computer Society.
My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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