Sunday, March 28, 2021

Show Me Your Papers: New York Rolls Out Vaccine Passport Program

By Jordan Schachtel - March 28, 2021 at 03:49PM


What was labeled an unhinged conspiracy theory just last year has become a reality today.

Unindicted human rights criminal Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced this week that New York has rolled out the nation’s first COVID vaccine passport program with the introduction of the “Excelsior Pass.”

According to reports, the COVID-19 vaccine passport is already ready for use at dozens of venues statewide, including at Madison Square Garden. While advertised as a “voluntary” measure, New York State officials are making it clear that not participating in the program will result in an individual being essentially shut out from society.

“New Yorkers have proven they can follow public health guidance to beat back COVID, and the innovative Excelsior Pass is another tool in our new toolbox to fight the virus while allowing more sectors of the economy to reopen safely and keeping personal information secure,” Gov. Cuomo said in introducing the vaccine passport. “The question of ‘public health or the economy’ has always been a false choice — the answer must be both. As more New Yorkers get vaccinated each day and as key public health metrics continue to regularly reach their lowest rates in months, the first-in-the-nation Excelsior Pass heralds the next step in our thoughtful, science-based reopening.”

Of course, readers of The Dossier know by now that Gov. Cuomo has a bit of a reputational problem, to put it mildly, and that the New York Metro Area has had the worst COVID-19 outcomes of any area in the United States.
The “Excelsior Pass” mobile application will display a green checkmark if the person has been vaccinated or tested negative for COVID-19. A red “x” means they have not met this standard. 

The New York State vaccine passport app was built by IBM, the multinational technology company — with a very dark history — that recently sold its computer and servers business to a Chinese company. The corporate press, for its part, has taken pains to blindly claim that your privacy will be protected, despite zero indications or verifiable information that this is actually the case.

 It remains unclear how IBM is securing New York residents’ sensitive health information. They claim to be doing so through the use of blockchain technology, which doesn’t really make much sense when you understand what a blockchain actually is. 

The blockchain was invented by the founder(s) of Bitcoin, the popular open source digital currency that has soared in popularity in recent years. On the Bitcoin network, the blockchain serves as a publicly accessible, verifiable transaction archive. This transaction archive is known as the ledger. It is open source and anyone with an internet connection can access it. The bottom line is that blockchain technology *does not* protect privacy and that was never its intended purpose.

Still, major corporations have attempted to leverage the success of Bitcoin and make the case that they are implementing some of its features into their business, at least from a marketing and public relations perspective. Blockchain, in 2021, has transformed into a corporate buzzword to mean a lot of things, or nothing at all, and IBM has not elaborated on how its “blockchain” does anything to secure sensitive information. For watchdog organizations, the use of “blockchain” to hype claimed technology innovation regularly serves as a red flag for shady business practices. 

The Intercept has published a lengthy article about the several privacy concerns surrounding the IBM “digital health pass.” Their chief area of scrutiny appears to be the reality that the application had zero public audits or oversight in its publicly-funded development and rollout. 

“Gov. Cuomo gave us screenshots of the user interface, but he never even published a privacy policy,” Albert Fox Cahn, the executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, told the Intercept. “We have no idea how this data can be tracked.”

In addition to the privacy issues, others fear that the vaccine passport can result in a China-like social credit score system, and a system of “digital segregation” among citizens. 

New York is just one of several states that is introducing an independent vaccine passport program (Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, to his great credit has ruled it out as a misguided, authoritarian idea). With so many states developing their own applications, this complicates privacy and security matters even more so, given the reality that this means several companies will be able to possess sensitive health information, and will have to send your medical records through multiple networks. Competition for vaccine passport contracts is heating up, and there are many technology companies seeking to profit from COVID Mania.
These states are not alone in embracing the social credit score model. Several European Union members (The EU is introducing a “Digital Green Certificate”), South American countries, China, and other nations are moving forward on their own vaccine passport systems.

Reprinted with permission from The Dossier.
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