A far-reaching plan by the Biden administration, in conjunction with private companies, to create a so-called coronavirus passport is raising privacy and transparency concerns from people of all political stripes. The plan could force Americans to get vaccinated in order to attend sporting events, vacation on a cruise ship, or fly commercially.
On the left, long-time feminist activist Naomi Wolf is sounding privacy alarms. She told Fox News, “I am not overstating this. I can’t say it forcefully enough. This is literally the end of human liberty in the West, if this plan unfolds as planned.”
Wolf said the vaccine passport sounds “like a fine thing, if you don’t understand what those platforms can do. I’m CEO of a tech company I understand what this platform does, it’s not about the vaccine, it’s not about the virus, it’s about your data, and once this rolls out you don’t have a choice about being part of the system, what people have to understand is that any other functionality can be loaded onto that platform, with no problem at all.
“And what that means is, it can be merged with your PayPal account with your digital currency, Microsoft is already talking about merging it with payment plans, your networks can be sucked up a geo locates you everywhere you go, your credit history can be included all of your medical history can be included. I am not overstating this, I can’t say it forcefully enough. This is literally the end of human liberty in the West.”
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On the political right, Dr. Bryan Ardis, a self-described conservative Republican of Texas said no American should be forced to get a vaccine or given “rewards” to do so. Ardis said that is what Communists do, not Americans. Ardis, who is CEO of Ardis Labs which develops acne treatment systems, said he is concerned the virus isn’t fully tested and Americans do not have all the information they need to make an informed decision on risk.
“We as Americans need to have transparency to make full and informed decisions that we know are best for our families and our children,” Ardis explained. Ardis said in California, the state is incentivizing young people to get the vaccine by offering to forgive student loan debt, which he said is a tactic often used by cults to control behavior. “They are trying to strip away our freedom to travel, something we’ve enjoyed forever,” Ardis said.
Ardis said federal laws protect individuals from being forced to get a vaccine that is classified as experimental and if an employer tries to force that on someone, he recommends they seek an attorney for help.
“This should be obvious to everyone, your actual privacy is being invaded as well as your rights to make informed decision,” Ardis added. “If you don’t want to get vaccinated, you should fight to preserve your rights for freedom and just say no.”
According to the Washington Post:
The administration’s initiative has been driven largely by arms of the Department of Health and Human Services, including an office devoted to health information technology, said five officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the effort. The White House this month took on a bigger role coordinating government agencies involved in the work, led by coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients, with a goal of announcing updates in coming days, said one official.
The White House declined to answer questions about the passport initiative, instead pointing to public statements that Zients and other officials made this month.
“Our role is to help ensure that any solutions in this area should be simple, free, open source, accessible to people both digitally and on paper, and designed from the start to protect people’s privacy,” Zients said at a March 12 briefing.
The initiative has emerged as an early test of the Biden administration, with officials working to coordinate across dozens of agencies and a variety of experts, including military officials helping administer vaccines and health officials engaging in international vaccine efforts.
The passports are expected to be free and available through applications for smartphones, which could display a scannable code similar to an airline boarding pass. Americans without smartphone access should be able to print out the passports, developers have said.
Other countries are racing ahead with their own passport plans, with the European Union pledging to release digital certificates that would allow for summer travel.
U.S. officials say they are grappling with an array of challenges, including data privacy and health-care equity. They want to make sure all Americans will be able to get credentials that prove they have been vaccinated, but also want to set up systems that are not easily hacked or passports that cannot be counterfeited, given that forgeries are already starting to appear.
Americans for Limited Government Vice President of Public Policy Robert Romano said a Covid passport would probably be counterproductive. “The passports, which are designed to be an incentive, could actually create a perverse disincentive not to get the vaccine simply because individuals don’t want to be in a database, or are likely to reject government mandates,” Romano explained. “Requiring vaccinations for travel is rather unprecedented. Where mandates might be applicable is downstream for public schools, which already require certain vaccines to attend, but they haven’t even gotten to the children yet, who are the least vulnerable to Covid and are therefore at the bottom of the priority list.”
Brian C. Castrucci leads the de Beaumont Foundation, a public health group funding research into why some Americans are balking at the vaccine. He told the Washington Post that he has concerns about the Covid passport approach. “If it became a government mandate, it would go down a dark road very quickly. It becomes a credential. It becomes a ‘needing your papers,’ if you will. That could be dangerous — and it could turn off people.”
Catherine Mortensen is vice president of communications at Americans for Limited Government.
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