When the European Union launched its Green Pass initiative in June 2021, it was supposedly intended to reopen the bloc’s borders and make international tourism possible once again. But within months it was being used by many Member States to exclude unvaccinated people from accessing many public spaces and basic services. Italy’s government has used its iteration of the Green Pass to effectively ban almost four million people from being able to earn a living. In Austria the government locked down around two million people for not being vaccinated, before relenting five days later and locking down everyone else.
This has happened despite the fact that the EU’s own Green Pass legislation stipulates that “[t]he issuance of [Covid] certificates… should not lead to discrimination on the basis of the possession of a specific category of certificate.” The Council of Europe, Europe’s preeminent human rights organisation, went even further, arguing not only that no one should be “discriminated against for not having been vaccinated” but also that the vaccination should not be mandatory.
To complement its Green Pass, the EU has already launched a digital wallet that will be used to store peoples’ surnames, first names, dates and place of birth, gender or nationality, as well as enable Europeans to identify themselves online. This is part and parcel of the digital identity revolution being spearheaded by organisations like the World Economic Forum, Gavi, and ID2020.
In a similar vein, the U.K. Government quietly announced on December 27th 2021, just weeks after introducing its vaccine passport system, plans to develop a “digital identity and attributes trust framework” that will “enable employers and landlords (letting agents) to use certified identification document validation technology (IDVT) service providers to carry out digital identity checks on their behalf for many who are not in scope to use the Home Office online services, including British and Irish citizens, from April 6th 2022”.
Once vaccine passport/digital ID systems are established, mission creep is virtually guaranteed. But don’t take my word for it; the French defence contractor Thales Group laid it out in an internal blog authored by its Head of Digital Identity Services Portfolio, Kristel Teyras:
The ambition is huge; both in terms of scale – as it applies to all EU member states – and also in the power it would grant to citizens throughout the Bloc. For the first time, citizens would be able to use a European Digital Identity wallet, from their phone, that would give them access to services in any region across Europe.
Note Teyras’s use of the verb “would be able to” in the second sentence. As German finance journalist Norbert Häring points out, “if we want to remove the gloss . . . we would only have to replace ‘be able to’ with ‘have to.’”