In the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, Westerners were astounded that China would require its citizens to show a QR code that “rates people as red, yellow, or green risks. To enter an apartment complex or a market, residents must scan a QR code at a manned checkpoint, letting the system know where they are and producing a one-time color code pass to show the guard.”
The language and acceptability have shifted.
Perhaps because the scientific and medical community have not yet come up with a reliable way to test immunity to COVID-19, or to know how long any such immunity will last, a new and more innocuous term is being promoted: ‘health passports.’
Digital health passports can, by definition, be all-encompassing and have much greater utility; and they are now being considered and adopted by Western governments.
Promoted as a useful mechanism to facilitate a return to work, health passports would enable nations to start rebuilding their economies, and avoid mounting social unrest emerging as communities around the world protest the ongoing lock-down.
The use of such digital papers is hardly different than China’s QR codes, or winkels before them, and enables governments (including Canada) to create detailed profiles of everyone in the country with astounding precision.
Tracking the data flows in health passport systems will certainly create challenges for access-to-information and data protection professionals as they prepare comprehensive privacy impact assessments to ensure the obvious and unintended risks to sensitive personal and health information can be identified and mitigated.