The World Health Organization estimates over 5 million people have died during the coronavirus pandemic that has gripped the entire planet for the past eighteen months. COVID has killed millions, triggered trillions in spending, and devastated healthcare infrastructures all over the world. But the worst may be still to come.
Send us your Vaccinated
For those of us fortunate to live in nations like Canada that took an aggressive and proactive approach to tackling the pandemic, the freedoms we used to enjoy are starting to return for the double-vaccinated or those who contracted COVID and recovered. I’m an example of the freedoms of the double-vaxxed as I write this blog from a canal-side cafe in Amsterdam. I’m enjoying my newly re-found freedom to travel Europe again and it was worth every hoop I had to jump through…almost.
Catch me if you can
International travel is something I really missed so I was very excited to get on a plane. However to do so, I had to share my identity globally because my vaccination status and my freedom to travel are now linked.
A few months ago, the province of British Columbia where I live, instituted a COVID tracking QR code system linking my vaccination status to my identity and freedom to travel. This BC system is not connected to any other government database, which meant I had to also link my vaccination status to a Canadian Federal government database, featuring another QR code to enter the EU and to return to Canada.
Viruses without Borders
Then, Air Canada, Lufthansa and KLM made me share my vaccination proof with them, creating more links between my vaccination status and travel. Of course, I had to give them my passport details and click ‘I Agree” many times to lengthy restrictions and obligations.
Also, every country I’m visiting has their own version of a passenger tracking system which further links link my identity, vaccination status and whereabouts to foreign governments – of which I am not a citizen and therefore have no right to data privacy or data protection.
I am starting to realize just how deeply centralized and dangerous tying every freedom we have to our vaccination status has become. What happens when there’s an airline passenger data breach? What happens when a government healthcare database is held for ransom?
COVID is the new Normal
In our rush to return to normal our vaccination status is being used as table stakes in a high-risk poker game where we gamble with our identity. Identity based on tracking our movement is a very dangerous precedent. We must ensure we don’t let covid vaccination status become the basis for full-blown government digital identity systems in the future.
Governments have been interested in digital identity systems for years but they are slow-moving projects focused on policies and standards aimed at protecting their citizens’ rights to privacy. COVID tracking has thrown all those concerns out the window.
Governments around the world have hastily built centralized solutions linked to healthcare databases to facilitate a quicker return to normal for the vaccinated and nudge those who are not, but they have sacrificed the fundamental principles of protecting our privacy.
Putting a gun to someone’s head is a great way to get them to agree to your terms, but it’s certainly no way to treat a friend.