Privacy dangers of the health passport app.Tue 7:40 am +01:00, 6 Oct 2020
On August 28, 2020, Ireland began a national trial of their new Health Passport Ireland initiative.1“Protecting Society and Economy,” their website reads, Ireland’s health passports are actually nothing more than a way to track and display results of COVID-19 testing — and facilitate increased COVID-19 testing for businesses and the public, plus display COVID-19 vaccination status, when one becomes available.2
At this time, Ireland’s health passports are being launched on a trial basis within a range of industries, including health care (hospitals and nursing homes), child care, education, agriculture, entertainment and others.3 It’s plausible that they could soon be required to gain entry into schools, hospitals, offices, airports and more.
It’s being touted as a measure that increases freedom — “Using the rapid real-time scanning technology, we can now enjoy freer travel with increased protection from COVID-19,” Health Passport Ireland states4 — but one day, when you head out the door, you may not be able to simply walk into a shop, restaurant or even a doctor’s office or your place of work like you used to, unless you can prove you don’t have COVID-19 and have been vaccinated via your “green” health passport app.
Display Your Scan ‘Whenever Appropriate’
As for how it works, the new health passport system claims to combine the “most advanced and validated testing solutions” so you can have immediate access to your COVID-19 status, which you can then choose to display or scan whenever appropriate.5 This involves first getting tested for COVID-19, after which an authorized medical administrator will create a Health Passport Ireland account in your name and update your COVID-19 test results.
Users will then need to download the Health Passport mobile app onto their phone, which will automatically be linked to their most recent COVID-19 test results. If your health passport turns green, it indicates you’ve tested negative “allowing you to safely enjoy daily life.” If not, you’ll be given a red status, at which point “you should self-isolate with medical attention.”6
Further, test results automatically expire over time, turning your health passport amber — a warning that it’s time to get tested again.
For those who haven’t been tested, Health Passport Ireland states that you can still immediately use the technology by downloading the app and using it to “easily scan others whenever needed,” and adding that by scanning others to get their COVID-19 status, “It gives great security for you and your family throughout our daily lives, for example when availing of services, whilst travelling, at events, at work and much more.”7
So, to sum up, in order to achieve the freedom you need to go about your normal, daily life, you only need to get tested for COVID-19, have a health administrator create a Health Passport account in your name, download the app on your phone, receive your COVID-19 test results on your phone (and get retested as required), then display your COVID-19 status whenever it’s requested.
Health Passports Going Global
Ireland’s health passport is a world’s first, developed by Irish-based ROQU Group. It’s designed, however, to expand on a global scale and is compatible with all official COVID-19 tests, including swab tests, blood tests and rapid diagnostic tests. According to Robert Quirke, president and CEO of ROQU Group:8
“Around the world, there is continued frustration and disappointment due to COVID-19 restrictions … Using our global visibility, we are helping local companies by making the best COVID-19 testing solutions readily available to all. As testing and research continues to improve, we want to ensure that Irish society and economy can easily access testing solutions that offer the highest levels of clinical validation.
The purpose of the pilot trial is to demonstrate how Health Passport works across a variety of real-life business and social scenarios.”
Expansion plans are underway, with ROQU noting that the system will soon be rolled out globally in countries such as Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Germany, France, Italy and Kenya, with other locations following.
“No matter where your test is performed worldwide, this can now be safely and securely updated into your private Health Passport account. This is vital for passengers departing and arriving into Ireland,” Health Passport Ireland stated.9
Ireland Pushed Health Passport for People With Disabilities
In June 2019, months before the pandemic was declared, Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE) launched another health passport initiative, this time supposedly to help people with intellectual disabilities gain equal access to health care.10 The passports, which are available to people with intellectual disabilities within certain health care groups, include multiple sections, detailing personal information, communication abilities, medical history and more.
Once again touted as a way to improve health care access, privacy concerns aren’t mentioned, nor is the fact that, should such a passport fall into the wrong hands, it could be used to promote discrimination as opposed to ending it.
Vaccination Status Will Also Be Displayed
Health Passport Ireland (soon to be Health Passport Canada, U.S., Germany and more) isn’t only intended to display your COVID-19 test results. It will also display your official vaccination status, once a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available. Considering you can also link the app to other medical services and records, it’s not a stretch to assume it may one day be used to track the status of all of your vaccines and other medical procedures.
It seems we may soon be living in a world where your personal health data — including results from COVID-19 testing and data showing whether or not you’ve received certain vaccines — must be shared and authenticated before you’re able to enter a sports arena, travel by air or even enter your workplace.
Ireland’s Health Passport is only one such system in the works. The technology behind such innovations, which many are calling a threat to civil liberties and privacy, is already available to the general public in the App Store and Google Play via Civic Technologies’ Civic Wallet. Civic Technologies, which bills itself as a “leading innovator in digital identity solutions,”11 released its “Civic Wallet” app June 16, 2020. Previously it was only available in private beta mode.
In addition to offering a way for users to send and receive digital currency, including bitcoin, ethereum, CVC and USDC, which are U.S. dollars converted to assets on the ethereum blockchain,12it will also offer proof-of-health verifications via its so-called Health Key.
Civic Technologies, in turn, has partnered with Circle Medical, an affiliate of San Francisco-based hospital UCSF Health, which will use the app so 500 of its employees can prove their COVID-19 health status. Civic plans to roll out its proof-of-health verification for companies with more than 500 employees.
Contact Tracing Army in the Works
In May 2020, Johns Hopkins launched an online course to train “an army” of contact tracers, for which hundreds of people joined within hours of its release. Those who take the course will be trained to interview people diagnosed with COVID-19, identify their close contacts who might have been exposed and then give them guidance on how to self-quarantine for two weeks.13
Meanwhile, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, set up with funds from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has partnered with the ID2020 Alliance to launch a digital identity program called ID2020 in Bangladesh.14 Your health information, in the form of COVID-19 test results, is set to be sent to an electronic database so that contact tracers can enforce isolation and quarantines, even if you’re healthy.
The Rockefeller Foundation’s April 21, 2020, white paper, “National COVID-19 Testing Action Plan — Strategic Steps to Reopen Our Workplaces and Our Communities,”15 also lays out a strategic framework that is clearly intended to become part of a permanent surveillance and social control structure that severely limits personal liberty and freedom of choice.
The Rockefeller plan calls for COVID-19 testing and tracing of 1 million Americans per week to start, incrementally ramping it up to 3 million and then 30 million per week (the “1-3-30 plan”) over the next six months until the entire population has been covered.
While it’s been said that quarantine will be voluntary, some related documents state that if you do not comply, police may enforce a detention order to assure compliance. It’s also stated in some states that you can be fined up to $2,000 a day or incarcerated for not staying in quarantine.16
A Health Passport, scanned at an airport or other entry point, would also be an easy way for authorities to keep tabs on your travel history and enforce self-quarantines for travelers coming from certain areas.
For instance, the city of Chicago issued an emergency travel order that mandates visitors coming from states with 15 or more new confirmed COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents according to a seven-day average, must quarantine for 14 days.
While the quarantine wasn’t being actively enforced, the city health commissioner announced that anyone who willfully defies the self-quarantine order could face fines of up to $7,000.17
Will Medical Privacy Continue To Be Violated?
Ultimately, this and other privacy violations, like contact tracing apps, could lead to a future in which a vaccine certificate or “unique patient ID number” replaces personal identifications such as your driver’s license, state ID card, Social Security card and passport, and is tied not only to your medical records in total, but also your finances.
If you may soon be required to “prove” that you’ve passed certain medical tests and received certain vaccines just to enter a building or go to work, it’s concerning to think what other information may also be required one day, and whether states will continue to take away additional freedoms and your right to privacy in the name of public health.
Apps that started out to track your COVID-19 test results and vaccination status could turn into tools of control and power, making it impossible for you to attend school, work or travel unless you have the right color or results.
“The next step could be using the same system to track other personal data — a person’s criminal record and social-media profile. And then all the information could be integrated into one online database that contains the entire personal history of every citizen — in the name of safety, of course,” Jurica Dujmovic wrote in Market Watch.18
“This crucial first step must be met with resolute resistance, lest it becomes a gateway to something that we, as a society, will no longer be able to defend ourselves from,” he adds. “If that happens, COVID-19 will be the least of our concerns.”