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Public Health or Private Wealth? How Digital Vaccine Passports Pave Way for Unprecedented Surveillance Capitalism

by Jeremy Loffredo, Max Blumenthal | Strategic Culture Foundation

The titans of global capitalism are exploiting the Covid-19 crisis to institute social credit-style digital ID systems across the West.

The death by starvation of Etwariya Devi, a 67-year-old widow from the rural Indian state of Jharkhand, might have passed without notice had it not been part of a more widespread trend.

Like 1.3 billion of her fellow Indians, Devi had been pushed to enroll in a biometric digital ID system called Aadhaar in order to access public services, including her monthly allotment of 25kg of rice. When her fingerprint failed to register with the shoddy system, Devi was denied her food ration. Throughout the course of the following three months in 2017, she was repeatedly refused food until she succumbed to hunger, alone in her home.

Premani Kumar, a 64-year-old woman also from Jharkhand, met the same demise as Devi, dying of hunger and exhaustion the same year after the Aadhaar system transferred her pension payments to another person without her permission, while cutting off her monthly food rations.

A similarly cruel fate was reserved for Santoshi Kumari, an 11-year-old girl, also from Jharkhand, who reportedly died begging for rice after her family’s ration card was canceled because it had not been linked to their Aadhaar digital ID.

These three heart-rending casualties were among a spate of deaths in rural India in 2017 which came as a direct result of the Aadhaar digital ID system.

With over one billion Indians in its database, Aadhaar is the largest biometric digital ID program ever constructed. Besides serving as a portal to government services, it tracks users’ movements between cities, their employment status, and purchasing records. It is a de facto social credit system that serves as the key entry point for accessing services in India.

Having branded Aadhaar’s creator, fellow billionaire Nandan Nilekani, as a “hero,” initiatives backed by tech oligarch Bill Gates have long sought to bring the “Aadhaar approach to other countries.” With the onset of the Covid-19 crisis, Gates and other mavens of the digital ID industry have an unprecedented opportunity to introduce their programs into the wealthy countries of the Global North.

For those yearning for an end to pandemic-related restrictions, credential programs certifying their vaccination against Covid-19 have been marketed as the key to reopening the economy and restoring their personal freedom. But the implementation of immunity passports is also accelerating the establishment of a global digital identity infrastructure.

As the military surveillance firm and NATO contractor Thales recently put it, vaccine passports “are a precursor to digital ID wallets.”

And as the CEO of iProove, a biometric ID company and Homeland Security contractor, emphasized to Forbes, “The evolution of vaccine certificates will actually drive the whole field of digital ID in the future. So, therefore, this is not just about Covid, this is about something even bigger.”

For the national security state, digital immunity passports promise unprecedented control over populations wherever such systems are implemented. Ann Cavoukian, the former privacy commissioner of Ontario, Canada has described the vaccine passport system already active in her province as “a new, inescapable web of surveillance with geolocation data being tracked everywhere.”

For tech oligarchs such Bill Gates and neoliberal institutions such as the World Economic Forum, digital ID and digital currency systems have already enabled the extraction of unbelievable profits in the Global South, where hundreds of millions of people remain “unbanked” and therefore outside the sphere of electronic payments systems.

Now, with grassroots protest building against an exclusionary regime of vaccine passports, the captains of global capitalism are campaigning with more urgency than ever to bring digital ID to the West.

For these elite interests, the digitization of immunity passports represent a critical tool in a long-planned economic and political transformation.

“With no Covid Pass, my wife and I are banished from society”

Across the globe, the certification of vaccination against COVID-19 is already a requirement to participate in daily life.

In Indonesia, COVID-19 vaccines are mandatory, and those who refuse may face fines or be refused access to public services. In Greece, residents must present immunity to work in or enter bars, theaters, and other indoor public spaces.

France has similarly required residents to carry a health pass for access to all restaurants, bars, trains, and any venue accommodating more than 50 people, a decision that has stoked widespread protests throughout the country. The socialist French former presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon has blasted the new restrictions as “absurd, unfair and authoritarian.” Read Full Article >

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