No COVID passes for the UK, at least not by law

Good news on the privacy front, at least for those who, in the proposed official adoption of so-called COVID passes, saw just another incautious step down the slippery slope of bureaucratic social control.

Amidst various recent encouraging promises of impending liberation from covid-related restrictions, the UK government has now announced that it will not proceed in making it a policy requirement to exhibit one’s vaccination status in order to access venues, transports or other services.

Amidst the first to triumphantly break the news was Big Brother Watch, an NGO dedicated to privacy issues who had fought a rather strenuous battle against the idea of mandating such passes. Idea which other organizations – like the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change – had shown early and enthusiastic support, even before the efficacy of vaccines had been demonstrated.

An very informative debate hosted by Unherd was recorded in March between Big Brother Watch’s director Silkie Carlo and the Tony Blair Institute’s Head of Digital Government Kirsty Innes. It seems that Carlo was on the right side of history, at least for now. Also named “freedom passes” (is that an Orwellian nomenclature, or is it just me?), these health certificates will not be requested by governmental policy, but businesses will be allowed to require them if they wish.

Big Brother watch seems bothered by this freedom allowed to businesses. “This risks a free-for-all where some businesses and events might require our medical data for entry” they declared in the newsletter, and defiantly added that they “will identify companies that choose to demand Covid passes, let you know who they are, and boycott them”. But here they lose me, because I really don’t see the problem with a pub or a private transport company asking clients to show a health certificate. Unless they hold a monopoly on whatever they do, or form a cartel that suppreses alternatives, companies should be allowed to compete on this point like any other. I will not join them for now, but history could prove me, and all the anti-passses, wrong.

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