Digital surveillance technologies such as My Vaccine Pass are being used to extract personal data and to impose new forms of social control.
For the last month people all over the country have been busy downloading the new vaccine certificates that the Government is billing as a way to “unlock the things you love”.
But the promotional tagline for the passes is a psychological inversion of what the Government really means – that your rights have been removed and you can only have them back if you go along with certain conditions.
Yep, the Government has done a swifty – and so far people are going along with it without thinking much about what it means and what the consequences for our way of life will be.
On social media, people have been sharing with excitement their newly minted pass to freedom, and many have been actively using it since 3 December to access cafes and restaurants, hairdressers and shops of all kinds.
The immediate consequence of this is that there is now an underclass of people, the unjabbed, who have been barred from accessing certain goods and services. They can’t eat in restaurants or cafes, swim in public pools or sit driving tests. Unjabbed parents can’t volunteer in schools and unjabbed school kids can’t participate in sports.
But this is just the beginning of how a biometric identity system could be used to deny people access to normal life without strict compliance to Government’s conditions, which can change at any time according to its priorities and goals.
Alongside the introduction of vaccine certificates, there are a couple other things going on in the background in New Zealand (and a lot more at the global level) that should be brought to the public’s attention – The Digital Identity Services Trust Framework Bill and The Reserve Bank’s exploration of a Central Bank Digital Currency.
The timing of these point to a blending of public health initiatives with new digital technologies of surveillance that can be used to extract personal data and to impose new forms of social control.
These dystopian digital passes did not appear out of nowhere, despite being introduced quickly in New Zealand and without public consultation.
Back in 2018, ID2020, the organisation that has been lobbying and working to achieve a biometric digital identity for every person on the planet, first suggested that immunisation was an “entry point for digital identity”. The NGO is closely tied to Bill Gates’ The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations (GAVI).
“In order to enable digital identity at scale, we will need to identify and leverage many entry points. Immunization service delivery presents a tremendous opportunity to provide children with a durable, portable and secure digital identity early in life, enabling access to a wider range of social services, while also improving access to the health interventions all children need and deserve.”
Since 2018, GAVI has been pushing for the introduction of biometric IDs to be used when children come in for their first round of immunisations through its INFUSE 2018 programme.
“As the child grows, the digital child health card can be used to access secondary services, such as primary school, or financial services, serving as the foundation for a broadly recognised digital identity,” it stated on a promotional GAVI diagram.
ID2020 and Gavi partnered with the government of Bangladesh to pilot their use in 2019.
Similarly, The European Union has been preparing for the passports since 2018, with a timeline that sets 2022 as the year for their commissioning for EU citizens.
And then in August 2021, the Word Health Organisation provided technical guidance to governments on the implementation of vaccine certificates in a document that was funded not by member states but notably by the Rockerfeller Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. You can read it here.
A globally coordinated plan for vaccine certificates has been in the works for some time, then. At a minimum it can be inferred that it’s a topic of great interest to certain philanthropists, advocacy groups and global governance institutions.
The certificates were developed in New Zealand in recent months ready to be rolled out for the newly introduced traffic light system, which has the distinct whiff of punitive nudging rather than a public health imperative.
Under this system, regions that have a less than 90 per cent vaccination rate will operate under more restrictions than those that have reached the Government’s target.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the vaccine certificates are a way for vaccinated people to feel safe in the knowledge they aren’t sharing a space with any unjabbed people and a way of rewarding them for “doing the right thing”.
She has also proudly admitted that the traffic light system is effectively removing certain rights from unjabbed people.
After the Government rammed through the legislation underpinning the certificates without due process on 23 November, a volley of responses from civil society was triggered.
The Civil Rights Council of New Zealand called it “disgraceful government secrecy”.
The Human Rights Commission expressed concern and produced a series of briefings on the issue. “The challenge is balancing the duty to protect peoples’ right to health and life while also protecting the right to freedom of movement and assembly,” said Chief Commissioner Paul Hunt.
“It is a difficult and at times contentious balance between competing rights, but we must not shy away from the fact that human rights and Tiriti obligations must not be undermined in times of national emergency.”
Amnesty International also urged the Government to rethink its approach on the legislation due to “serious concerns about the lack of opportunity for public consultation and scrutiny.”
The New Zealand Law Society wrote to the Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins on 26 November with a scathing admonishment for the Governments inscrutable law making and urging wider consultation.
“The Act is perhaps the most significant piece of amendment legislation since passage of the principal Act—the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020 …
“The amendments do not specify any decision-making principles or criteria in relation to the implementation of requirements for vaccinations and testing. Instead, the legislation leaves this to be determined through the drafting of the Orders.
“As such, the amendments confer expansive powers that may be exercised with little or no democratic scrutiny. The Bill providing for these powers passed through the House in 24 hours,” wrote president Tiana Epati.
The Ministry of Justice told the attorney-general when advising on the bill’s consistency with the Bill of Rights Act 1990:
“We have not yet received a final version of the bill. This advice has been prepared in relation to the latest version of the bill (PCO 24238/9.5). This advice has been prepared in an extremely short timeframe due to late receipt of the bill that was not in compliance with cabinet office guidance.”
It’s clear the vaccine passes sacrifice equality, privacy and liberty and have no public health benefit, because the jab does not prevent infection or transmission. They are largely about coercing compliance with the Government’s aim of getting a needle in every arm and later to issue digital identities.
Digital Identify Services Trust Framework Bill
This piece of legislation, the Digital Identify Services Trust Framework Bill, is currently at Select Committee phase after its first reading; it sets the rules for the delivery of digital identity services and is likely to pave the way for a cashless society in which citizens access goods and services through a centralised digital authority.
As he points out, the language used to sell digital identities is framed as helpful, people-centred and trustworthy but comes at a time when trust in Government is being eroded due to disproportionate and harsh covid restrictions.
Just as with the traffic light law, no public consultation was undertaken on this significant piece of legislation. While the Government undertook “targeted consultation”, it did not disclose all of the individuals and organisations that were consulted, begging the question: Were the likes of Google, The World Economic Forum, ID2020 or global philanthropists such as Bill Gates, or Tony Blair’s think tank consulted?
As advocacy group Physicians and Scientists for Global Responsibility and grassroots activist group Voices for Freedom stated in their submissions on the bill, its stated purpose, “to establish a legal framework for the provision of secure and trusted digital identity services for individuals and organisations”, doesn’t take into account the potential for human rights violations, or anticipate new or existing threats from technological developments, such as artificial intelligence and data piracy.
The submissions also note that while the policy documents claim digital identity is voluntary and that citizens can opt-out, it’s clear from observing India and China, which have already adopted digital identity systems, that participating will increasingly become a requirement to do life – for example to receive welfare benefits, or to confirm identity when voting or registering at school.
“The passing of a considerable body of legislation during the Sars-Cov-2 pandemic has revealed that the government can and will swiftly enact draconian legislation removing the rights and freedoms of New Zealanders without appropriate consultation. In addition, when www.voicesforfreedom.co.nz consultation has been undertaken, the state’s decision has not reflected the perspective or weight of public comment,” The VFF submission stated.
A recent essay from The Grey Zone’s Jeremy Loffredo and Max Blumenthal highlighted the dangers people face from such ID systems. In the long, but beautifully researched piece, the pair describe terrifying real world examples in which people have been denied access to food and even starved to death in India because their biometric identity wasn’t functioning correctly.
This important investigation lays out how digital vaccine passes are accelerating the establishment of global biometric IDs.
“For these elite interests, the digitisation of immunity passports represent a critical tool in a long-planned economic and political transformation,” it states.
In New Zealand, unjabbed people are already unable to access a number of goods and services by virtue of ‘My Vaccine Pass’.
Two other pieces worth reading are Rusere Shoniwa’s excellent three part Open Letter to Those Not Yet Opposed to Vaccine Passports, which sets out the ethical case against such tools, and a Lithuanian man’s description of life as an unjabbed family in a country where vaccine passes limit access to just about everything for the unjabbed. It’s a heartbreaking read.
It’s also worth noting the New Zealand Government partnered with The World Economic Forum in 2019 to become the test case for building trust in artificial intelligence and its use by Government, which is now in the “scaling” phase.
Central Bank Digital Currency – the end game
Countries all over the world are looking carefully at Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs), including the central bank of central banks, The Bank for International Settlements.
As society increasingly moves away from cash to adopt digital currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum, central banks have been looking for a way to get in on the action.
CBDCs differ from other crypto currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum in one simple way – they are intended to be centralised, where crypto currencies are based on a decentralised blockchain that can’t be controlled by a central force.
Head of the Bank for International Settlements Agustin Carstens (in a moment of candidness that was possibly not intended) explains:
“We don’t know who is using a $100 bill today … a key difference with the CBDC, is the central bank will have absolute control on the rules and regulations that will determine the use of that expression of central bank liability. And also, we will have the technology to enforce that.” (See for yourself in this video at about the 24 minute mark).
There have been warnings from intellectuals and experts for some time about the threat of vaccine passports and CBDCs leading to a Chinese-style social credit system, under which your ability to move freely and do everyday things becomes contingent with your compliance with government rules. Access to funds can be flicked off any time the authorities are unhappy with you, or restrict where, how and when your money can be spent.
Journalist and public intellectual Naomi Wolf has been sounding the alarm at least since last year.
“The vaccine passport platform is the same platform as a social credit system, like in China, that enslaves eight billion people. In China the CCP can find any dissident in five minutes because of the 360-degree surveillance of the social credit system.”
Financial and investment guru Catherine Austin Fitts has done likewise, saying vaccine passports alongside a digital control system will spell the end of human liberty in the west. She advocates for ‘cash Friday’s’, asking people to use cash only in their transactions.
On 7 July, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand signalled it was looking at developing a CBDC.
Assistant governor Christian Hawkesby said at the time that government backed cash was an “unspoken promise” that helped to promote trust in banks and the financial system.
“The potential for a Central Bank Digital Currency to help address some of the downsides of reducing physical cash use and services is something we want to explore for New Zealand. A CBDC, similar to digital cash, might well be part of the solution, but we need to test our assessment of the issues and proposed approach before developing any firm proposals,” he said.
The Reserve Bank ran a consultation on the issue that closed on 6 December and the public can expect the results to be announced by the end of the first quarter next year.
Read the Reserve Bank’s position paper on CBDCs here.