This morning I wrote a letter to my MP to, hopefully, express the dangers surrounding the numerous “vaccine passport” systems being proposed in this, and other countries.

Discussion around these passports, in my mind, seem to miss the main danger. A cynical mind might say that this omission is deliberate, but I am going to assume good faith for now, at least until it is proved otherwise.

My letter is below:

I am writing to you to express my strongest objection to Tory plans for the introduction of a vaccine passport in the UK, something the Labour leader also opposes. 

Internal vaccine certification is something alien to this country, and with the wide uptake of the Covid vaccine, seems to me unnecessary. After all, if we are at herd immunity, what does it matter whether a particular individual is vaccinated or not? 

It is my belief that requiring us to prove our medical status to anyone who demands it from us is a massive invasion of privacy. It is also my belief that they will be divisive, with those unwilling or unable to get the vaccine being treated as “untouchables” and effectively barred from civil society.

However, fundamentally it is my belief that vaccine passports are clearly meant to be a form of coercion and control. 

Coercion because it is clearly meant to threaten those reticent to take up the vaccine with being effectively “unpersoned” unless they undergo a medical procedure, a practice outlawed in the Nuremberg code of medical ethics. 

Control, because every scan of the bar code will inform a government database of your location, who you’re with, and what you are doing. This is essentially an ID card system by the back door.

It is my firm belief that we are on a dangerous road to a very dark place. Not only are we moving to a world where we allow the state to effectively mandate citizens undergo medical procedures, but we are letting the fear of a virus take us to a world where, with widespread adoption of this system, the government could essentially place political dissidents in internal exile with the press of a button.

Imagine a world, ten years from now, where you have to prove your vaccine status for anything that requires you to come in contact with other people. The government is already talking about pubs and concert venues, but logically, why stop there? Why not shops or public transport systems as well? After all, you will be mixing with just as many, if not more people. You are obviously going to need it to leave or enter the country.

Now, imagine you have the “wrong opinions”. Perhaps you attend an environmental protest, or you write something on social media critical of the government. Any one of a million things that are perfectly reasonable in a liberal democracy, but which inconvenience those in power.

Well, will you look at that! Your vaccine passport suddenly stops working. Now that person has been removed from interacting with society, and all without any of that messy “due process” business!

This is not paranoia, or science fiction. This system exists, right now, in China, and it is called the Social Credit system. There, every citizen has an app on their phone which is scanned numerous times a day to prove, not their vaccine status, but whether they are a “good citizen” or not. Have the “wrong opinions”, or post something on social media critical of the government and look at that! Your score drops, and you are suddenly barred from participating in society. 

The proposed vaccine passport system is obviously, on the face of it, different. However, it is functionally the same mechanism as the Social Credit system. That system is the mechanism by which the Chinese government exercises totalitarian control over their citizens everyday lives and is not something that a so called “free” society should ever seek to emulate!

I therefore urge you to oppose any form of vaccine certification.

Last week I gave a talk at the FREYA project wrap up meeting, part of the EOSC life symposium, on PIDs and how we (as part of my day job) were looking at using them to reproduce scientific research. This was one of the prize winners for the end of project award.

The basic concept is as follows:

  1. When a researcher visits an institution we create a PID identifying their “session”
  2. As an experiment is performed, we mint PIDs for each relevant asset, and “cite” the session identifier. Assets should include everything relevant for reproducing the science (this includes things you might not think of such as beam line or microscope configuration settings)
  3. When a research output is produced (research paper, protein in the protein database), all these sessions are tied together with another PID and a link is established between that bundle and the final output
  4. Using the PID Graph it is possible to unpack this.

If you’re interested, you can watch the presentation, or read more in the paper below.