Biometric IDs and health passports: Safety at the expense of personal freedom

Digital IDs and health passports are being talked up as the only way to return to normal amid COVID-19 but open the door to an unprecedented central surveillance system and an end to personal autonomy through coercion. And while they are being pitched as optional, those who opt out face exclusion from the most fundamental freedoms.

Published On: February 8th, 2021
Biometric IDs and health passports: Safety at the expense of personal freedom_62cca671eb2e1.png
Biometric IDs and health passports: Safety at the expense of personal freedom_62cca671eb2e1.png

Biometric IDs and health passports: Safety at the expense of personal freedom

Digital IDs and health passports are being talked up as the only way to return to normal amid COVID-19 but open the door to an unprecedented central surveillance system and an end to personal autonomy through coercion. And while they are being pitched as optional, those who opt out face exclusion from the most fundamental freedoms.

Fingerprints and facial images stored on a chip have been obligatory for EU ID cards since June 2019, yet biometrics for matters such as payments, entry to public venues and workplaces, and travel – which link to form a far more intrusive and centralised identity system – are now being promoted as the only way to return to normal amid COVID-19.

Governments and companies, while claiming that digital health IDs will be optional, are threatening those who opt out with exclusion from the most fundamental of freedoms, which equates to outright coercion into a system that gravely threatens privacy and personal autonomy.

EU invests big in biometrics

The EU’s Horizon 2020 programme has been boosting the biometric industry since long before the coronavirus, particularly for security products for police and border control agencies, providing €1.7 billion in funding between 2014 and 2020 which involves wide ranging surveillance technologies such as facial and iris recognition, and a further €1.3 billion will be provided for the next seven years.

Figures compiled by the Guardian show that Horizon 2020 has given