The science fiction moment is upon us. A dynamite discussion between Postmedia columnist Anthony Furey and Dr. Ann Cavoukian, Ontario’s former information and privacy commissioner, unpacks unprecedented concerns around privacy and security in a Vaccine Passport world, the indiscretions of voice recognition technologies and the Internet of Things rollout.
From the National Post website:
Desperate to get out of the pandemic, Canadians have rushed to give up their privacy. We offer our sensitive digital health information to go out in public. Contact tracing, COVID-19 apps and QR codes trace our movements. Meanwhile, we’re building an information network that can give governments vast surveillance powers that remain long after the pandemic, says privacy expert Ann Cavoukian. The former Ontario privacy commissioner, and author of Privacy by Design, joins Anthony Furey to explain why she’s alarmed by this zero-sum arrangement that trades privacy for health security. And she explains how we can keep public health without creating a permanent digital surveillance state — but only if we demand it. (Recorded November 25, 2021.)
WORRY NOTES (from the discussion)
Why should we worry?
Once vaccine passport data is retained at a particular site, associated information such as geolocation data (information that can be used to identify an electronic device’s physical location), can act as a “virtual bouncer,” creating an inescapable web of geolocation tracking surveillance. This prospect is the exact opposite of the privacy and freedom that forms the foundation of free and open societies. (Still) our society.
Surveillance is abounding. It is becoming ever easier to track the whereabouts on a particular date at a particular time of anyone, anywhere. Scanning technologies, of the sort we use at restaurants for digital menus, and the digital measures that increasingly define our day-to-day reality (including the potential of vaccine passports) create a web of surveillance. As individuals in a free and open society, this is a web we don’t want worldwide, nationwide or city-wide. We should at least recognize the trap when we see it.
What do we need?
Surveil the surveillance! We need monitors checking to ensure that promised safeguards for privacy and security are in place. For example, provincial digital IDs – an electronic version of trusted government ID such as driver’s licenses and health cards. The intention is to make life simpler but enormous protections will be necessary to ensure privacy is protected. ENORMOUS. Promised protections need to be audited to ensure what is being promised is implemented. Who will do this? And where are the voices at the table now on the subject of vaccine passports and the danger to privacy and security these passports pose?
Are we already in The Matrix?
Keep the hope alive. Privacy and public health can be friends. We don’t have to choose. (But, yes. We have slipped into The Matrix. The blue pill is very popular).