With Digital Identity, States Become the Stooges of Big Tech

With Digital Identity, States Become the Stooges of Big Tech

In my latest analysis, I argued that corporations and high finance are using their means of power to subjugate states and make them their colonies. I also argued that these new colonisers decide when and how they wage hybrid wars from within a state's territory. So who are these new colonial masters, how do they proceed, how do they intervene in state structures and decision-making processes? And why should we be seriously concerned that states are increasingly allowing themselves to be stripped of their sovereignty and integrity?

Data collection without taboos

The introduction of digital vaccination records or 'green passports' has caused heated debate in many European countries. In a short period of time, several million people have been confronted with the linking of their health data with other data. The digital passport became - for many citizens - the visible symbol of a massive infringement of their fundamental rights, when they were denied access to restaurants, hotels, cinemas and theatres, and even public transport. In the wake of the Corona crisis, many states have, with remarkable unanimity, broken several taboos: data retention has suddenly become part of everyday life, especially in the highly sensitive area of health data.

In the context of the 'fight against terrorism', this topic had already caused a stir: in April 2014, the 2006 EU Data Retention Directive was declared invalid by the CJEU. The judges ruled that the indiscriminate collection of data from more than 500 million EU citizens was not permissible: although the infringements of fundamental rights to privacy and data protection that accompany the collection of data are in principle legitimate, they must be limited to what is strictly necessary - and the Directive did not provide for such a limitation. At the end of 2016, the CJEU confirmed its decision in a request for a preliminary ruling and stated that a "general and undifferentiated retention of traffic data and location data" was not compatible with EU law.

And now suddenly everything is different, other new rules apply? Only those who prove their 'fitness' through regular tests can participate in social life? If we think quickly, we would tend to assume that it is the states, or those who are called upon to run and administer them, who reward good citizen behaviour by granting freedoms. For the central question that arises - if we think slowly - is curiously hardly asked: Are states able to manage their societies in this way?

Digital transformation weakens states

The "digital transformation" that many European states have on their agenda only works because there are colonisers who have the means and the possibilities in their hands. Cities like Bologna are now going 'digital', using the technological innovations at their disposal to introduce entirely new control mechanisms: If you sort your waste properly and use public transport, if you don't get fined, your virtuous behaviour will be rewarded! What at first sight looks like a 'nudge' turns out to be a massive intervention in democratically legitimised structures and decision-making processes. An Italian commentator sums up the situation well: "Perhaps in the future, following other emergencies, perhaps of an economic nature, we will start to legitimise instruments similar to the green passport, which compress the fundamental rights of those who have not paid their bills regularly? Or for those who have not paid their taxes regularly and have not paid in instalments? Or - why not - for those who do not have a solid bank account?"

Those who now point the finger at China must ask themselves whether the situation of basic democratic freedoms in European societies is really better. In China, the state collects data from various sources and exploits it. In Europe, states are stooges of the big technology companies. They let their products and services increasingly guide state action. They are allowing the integrity and sovereignty of the state to be eroded.

The World Economic Forum's (WEF) current digital agenda shows how digital identifiers could be used to authenticate a user (using fingerprints, passwords or identity verification technology) and decide whether they can access bank credit by assessing their profile (which may include biometrics, name and national identity number) and history (which may include credit history, medical care and online purchases). In the systematic collection of health data, the state will be able to use the data to determine whether the user has been able to access a bank loan.

In the systematic collection of health data the WEF also sees an "incredible public health benefit" and recommends the use of anonymisation, pseudonymisation and data protection techniques in a controlled environment to allow the re-use of this highly sensitive data. After the settlers put this on the agenda, implementation in the settlements follows quickly: "A common European health data space will help improve the exchange of and access to different types of health data (electronic health records, genomic data, data from patient registries, etc.), not only to support the provision of health care (primary use of the data), but also to support health research and policy making (secondary use of the data)."

Ukraine, a model student of digital technology

One colony that has recently developed particularly promisingly from the point of view of technology groups is Ukraine. With Mykhailo Fedorov, who is barely 30 years old and officially the Minister of Digital Transformation, there was also a "reliable local governor", as the Washington Post acknowledged: "During his tenure, Fedorov has travelled the world and regularly met with representatives of leading technology companies. During his visit late last summer to Apple's spaceship-like headquarters in California with Zelensky, he spoke with Cook about setting up an Apple Store in Ukraine and how Apple could help with the census in Ukraine and the expansion of education and health services in the country, as he wrote in his Facebook post about the visit. On his Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages, he mentions meetings with the UK's digital service, Amazon, Facebook head Sheryl Sandberg and Karan Bhatia, Google's vice president of government affairs."

Ukraine has also implemented a digital social credit system: Under the ePidtrymka[1] programme, people with a green COVID-19 vaccination passport could receive all sorts of discounts. Since mid-February 2022, elderly or disabled Ukrainians could also use their credit to pay for housing, municipal services or medicines[2]. On 8 March, it was announced that Ukrainians could receive assistance of 6,500 UAH (200 euros) under ePidtrymka, "especially in the regions most affected by the hostilities".[3] A prerequisite: vaccination against COVID-19.

The erosion of state executive power

The emergence of key new technologies such as quantum technology, nanotechnology, genetic engineering, AI, the Internet of Things, biosensors, etc. has led to a global race for technological supremacy.

The situation has changed to the extent that the technology race is no longer one of predominantly state actors, but one of non-state actors operating on a global scale. This technical superiority of non-state actors undermines the entire system of political governance and renders state constitutional orders or international law obsolete.

The apparent and declared reason for the warlike conflict in Ukraine is a geostrategic threat to Russia, the starting point of which is the national territory of Ukraine (e.g. biological research laboratories with high risk research). The colonisers who wage hybrid wars from this territory are not combatants in the true sense of the word. But they are intervening massively in order to take over more and more executive power.

Neither Apple, Google, Amazon nor Netflix would give the Washington Post any information about the discussions with Minister Fedorov. The Facebook Meta group is constantly threatening to shut down its social media operations in Europe if the transfer of personal data continues to be restricted by the European Union The European Health Data Space will pass its metadata collections directly to biotech and pharmaceutical companies.

States do not control the tools of these colonisers, rather they are increasingly dominated and directed by these tools!

This analysis was first published in: Le Courrier des Stratèges on May 11th, 2022


[1] https://e-aid.diia.gov.ua/#about – the site is currently offline

[2] https://www.kmu.gov.ua/en/news/vidsogodni-za-programoyu-yepidtrimka-ukrayinci-zmozhut-oplatiti-komunalni-poslugi – the site is currently offline

[3] https://www.kmu.gov.ua/en/news/mihajlo-fedorov-6500-grn-mozhut-otrimati-ukrayinci-v-mezhah-yepidtrimki-uzhe-vidsogodni – the site is currently offline