On Saturday, I (Chris Lowe) had to use one to fly home to my native Ireland.
I also had to use one to eat indoors at a restaurant in Dublin.
Something similar is happening in the U.S.
On Tuesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said city authorities would require vaccination proof for indoor dining and gyms.
In California, officials are creating an opt-in version of the COVID Tracker app we have to use in Europe.
And President Biden has announced sweeping new vaccination requirements.
Federal workers must now sign forms attesting they’ve been vaccinated against the coronavirus. Or else they must follow new rules on mandatory masking, weekly testing, and social distancing.
I’m NOT saying vaccines don’t work. Or that folks shouldn’t get vaccinated.
I’m vaccinated with two shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine.
And I’m all in favor of people choosing to get vaccinated to protect us all.
But the vaccine mandates, and the digital tracking they involve, confirm what I’ve been warning you about since we launched the Cut three years ago…
We’re sleepwalking into becoming a digital surveillance state – one in which the government tracks, monitors, and records you 24/7.
And during the pandemic, some of my worst fears about that have come true.
So today, I’ll show you why, even if you’re pro-vaccines, vaccine passports should worry you.
And we’ll look at why they’re just the start of a much more invasive system of tracking and surveillance in our daily lives.
But let’s start with a prediction I made about all this three years ago…
Three years ago, I asked you to imagine a disturbing scenario…
Imagine you have an important flight to catch…
You have a business appointment in another city. You get to the airport early, just in case. You walk up to the check-in desk. But something is wrong…
The young lady behind the counter says you can’t board your flight. Or any other flight. Your “social credit” score is too low.
You protest. But she insists.
“Government orders,” she informs you apologetically. “You’re on a ‘restricted list’ for the next year.”
I was referring to the creepy Social Credit System the Chinese government has been rolling out in phases since 2014.
And they dock points for “antisocial” behavior.
It could be jaywalking… not paying a bank loan back on time… even reading the wrong book.
This system requires you to show a type of barcode called a QR code when you want to board a plane or a train.
If it shows a low enough score, you’re not allowed to board. You have to travel by bus instead.
Too low a score and you’ll also be blocked from staying in certain hotels… and even working for the Chinese government and state-run businesses.
Online dating apps could even downgrade your profile.
I even warned you that Western governments would use the pandemic as a catalyst for rolling out Chinese-style digital tracking systems of their own.
As I wrote last April, at the start of the pandemic…
The pandemic is the perfect test case for invasive surveillance measures. People are scared of getting sick. So they’re willing to put up with governments suspending civil liberties. […]
The next step could be the “digital health passport” system the Chinese government has rolled out.
It’s built into an app on your smartphone. And it’s based on whether you have a clean bill of health.
As I mentioned up top, I’m writing to you from Dublin, Ireland, where I grew up.
Over the weekend, I flew here from Barcelona, Spain, where I spend much of my time these days.
To get on the plane, I had to show an EU Digital COVID Certificate to the cabin crew with my passport and boarding pass.
It’s a QR code I generate from COVID Tracker – an Irish government app on my phone. It’s proof I’m fully vaccinated.
Here’s a screenshot from the app’s home screen…
Screenshot from Chris’ COVID Tracker app
Last night, I had to show the vaccine passport QR code again (along with photo ID) to eat indoors at a restaurant with friends.
It certainly shocked me.
But it’s a trend in motion since the 1990s, when we started to mass adopt digital technologies.
As our cofounder Bill Bonner put it…
It’s the bitter fruit of the internet age. When the World Wide Web was first introduced on a commercial basis in the 1990s, people thought it would be a huge boost to the economy.
But the internet – and all the data we share across it every day – has turned out to be a bigger boon to governments. It’s allowed them to track you using Big Data and monitor everything you do all the time.
Even our resident tech expert, Jeff Brown, is worried about what’s going on.
If you follow him, you’ll know Jeff is optimistic about our high-tech future.
But he’s no Pollyanna.
Here’s the warning he gave to readers of his free daily tech investing e-letter, The Bleeding Edge…
The ethical questions over technology that mankind faces in the next decade will be unprecedented.
I don’t tell you this to worry you. As a technologist, I believe technology has always been a force for good. And I believe it will solve some of society’s biggest problems in the years ahead.
But we are at an inflection point. Over the two next decades, either our high-tech society will become one of abundance for all. Or it will descend into chaos. Time will tell which wins out.
Sure, every now and then, people get animated about the idea of digital surveillance and what it means for their privacy… and their freedoms.
It happened in 2013, when National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden blew the whistle on how the agency was monitoring Americans’ communications in a massive digital dragnet.
There was also a brief surge in interest after Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal. It broke in the wake of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. And it transpired that Facebook had been illegally harvesting data from users without their consent, to sell to political campaign strategists.
But we keep creeping toward more and more digital surveillance. Because most people reckon the loss of privacy is a reasonable price to pay for convenience or security.
At the turn of the millennium, a researcher called Alan Westin divided people into three groups according to their attitudes toward privacy.
First, there were the fundamentalists. They were privacy-oriented folks who feared sharing their personal information.
We’d count ourselves among them here at the Cut.
Second, there were what Westin called the unconcerned. These folks had no trouble giving up their privacy.
Third, there were the pragmatists. They were concerned about privacy. But they were willing to give it up if they felt it benefited them.
And the pragmatists were in the majority.
Westin found that pragmatists made up 55% of the population. A further 25% were unconcerned.
Only 20% of the population – 1 in 5 – were fundamentalists who prioritized privacy.
That’s why so many people volunteer daily to have for-profit surveillance companies Facebook (FB) and Google (GOOG) spy on them in return for “free” web services such as email and social media.
It’s also why so many people pack their homes with Big Tech surveillance devices such as Amazon Echo… Google Nest… and Amazon’s Ring facial recognition doorbells.
As a Daily Cut reader, you’re already seeking an alternative to mainstream ways of thinking.
And you probably have less faith that governments will do the right thing than the average Joe or Jane.
You also probably don’t like the idea of living in a version of totalitarian China…
Here in Europe, you have to have a valid QR code if you want to eat in a restaurant… drink at a bar… stay at a hotel… or get on a plane.
And a similar regime is not far off in America.
That may be good for fighting the pandemic. But it also sets a dangerous precedent.
It’s like what happens in Communist China.
It says it’s okay to separate folks into different groups of citizens… with different rights… based on a barcode.
I’m running out of time here today. But I’ll be back tomorrow with a Q&A with Bonner-Denning Letter coauthor Dan Denning.
As you’ll see, he believes linking vaccine information to a mandatary barcode scan is only the beginning. Dan says it will soon cover other areas of your life…
…including your health records (if you’re diabetic, should you be pulling up to a drive-thru McDonald’s?)…
…even the kinds of posts you like on social media (do you support undesirable political candidates?)…
And he’ll share a set of actions you can take to lessen the impact on your privacy.
So look out for that tomorrow.
August 4, 2021