I have to admit that I didn’t quite get it right when, 12 days ago, I wrote: ‘There is a model for what will be coming our way if we do not resist vaccination passports and electronic ID cards: China’s social credit system, which blacklists people for numerous antisocial offences, from crossing the street on a red light to failing to sort their recycling, and uses the information to deny them the right, for example, to buy rail and airline tickets.’
I had in mind that it would take two to five years for a vaccination passport scheme to morph into a Chinese-style social credit system. In fact, it took two weeks. This morning it was reported that the government is planning to introduce a health app in January which will monitor our shopping, our exercise levels, or intake of fruit and vegetables – and reward us with virtue points which we can exchange for discounts, free tickets (to what kind of event is not clear) and other goodies. Capita and Serco – the usual beneficiaries of demented government schemes – are reported to be bidding for the chance to run it.
Let’s leave aside the rather obvious possibilities for fraud: just think how many virtue points you could accumulate by persuading someone else to take your phone jogging with them while you tuck into takeaway pizza which you bought with means other than your smartphone – you could enjoy your junk food and get a free pass to the all-in wrestling to boot. Just because someone has bought some kind of drink or foodstuff doesn’t mean they are going to consume it – even teetotallers can stock up on wine and beer if they are throwing a party.
But more to the point, do we seriously want to be monitored like pieces of an industrial plant? It won’t be long, of course, before employers started demanding that their employees use the app, and to see diet and exercise history before giving someone a job. Just as clubs, and quite possibly pubs and restaurants, will be obliged to check our vaccination status before letting us in, next they will find themselves forced to check our dietary history before selling us a burger and milkshake. And of course, the NHS will be expected to use the app for rationing healthcare. Don’t expect to be offered a hip operation until you have proved that you are leading a healthy lifestyle.
There will be no end to this kind of thing if we agree to use this app. Just look how we were fooled with CCTV cameras. If we can be said to have consented to their use at all it was on the basis that they might be used to solve serious crime. Yet look at them now: programmed to issue fines systematically for the most minor of offences, like straying into a bus lane for a few yards, getting caught in a box junction, accidentally dropping a few crumbs as you eat your lunch on a city centre bench. It is always the same with surveillance: give authorities an inch and mission creep sets in at once.
There is only one way we can avoid vaccination passports and health apps from developing into nightmarish constant surveillance of our lives – and that is to reject them now. Don’t download any app the government is trying to push at you, boycott any venue whose entry is dependent on you supplying personal information on a smartphone. It is absolutely certain that if we do consent to these things, then sooner rather than later, we will end up with a spy in our pockets ready to ‘ping’ us and admonish us should we fancy a doughnut.