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Privacy groups call for an end to “immunity passport” proposals

A privacy "disaster".

There is virtually no work of art in the past century dealing with a dystopian future – including Orwell’s “1984” and Ridley’s “Blade Runner” – to name but a few personal favorites – that has not been peppered with references to aggressive and permeating mass surveillance as a hallmark of a society’s – and a even a species’ – descent into hell.

Couple that with the fact that for anyone who’s had the unfortunate advantage of living in a society at war, and observing how authorities act and react – there’s one thing that stands out. They will all – in real world and in fiction – try to smuggle in an awful lot of new rules that would never stand a chance of being accepted under normal circumstances. But when people feel at their most vulnerable, their overlords are at their most unscrupulous, racing to abuse that position while they can.

That brings us to the coronavirus pandemic and its truly unforeseeable consequences that are playing out like a dystopian plot point.

Not only are we told it will be a long time still, if ever, before we may hug other people and shake hands with them, work, eat, and party with them – that is, be human. On top of that, there are deeper insidious changes in the offing, judging by this piece in Privacy International.

It’s about “immunity passports” as a new form of an identity system that the report argues is riddled with some serious unknowns – much like the virus saga itself.

To that point – “the scientific validity/rationale of ‘immunity’ is still under question,” said the report.

So how could an identity passport based on flimsy at best scientific evidence ever pass muster and be of actual help in defending public health?

But the push itself may not be as nonsensical as it seems – it may not be useful to you and me – but “travel firms and airports, governments, policy think-tanks, and the digital identity industry” may all find it useful (i.e., politically and/or financially profitable.)

Questions also remain about how crippling a lack of ownership of such “passports” might prove to people’s everyday life: will they be able to work, take out loans, shop, or travel unless they provide such (based on arbitrary metrics) “documents”?

“The digital identity components of an immunity passport is a means, not an end in itself. The goal of the immunity passport has to be its role in public health and the easing of restrictions surrounding the lockdown; its goal should not be the spread of ‘digital identity’,” writes Privacy International.

Some key recommendations made by the group are that “decision-making around immunity passports must follow and respect the current epidemiological evidence on immunity and the Coronavirus/Covid-19”; as well as that, “immunity passports should be withdrawn and the policy and tech infrastructure removed after the pandemic.”

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