Told you so.
Government accused of ushering in national ID cards ‘by the backdoor’ after Covid vaccine passport contract
Entrust, a global IT firm, was handed £250,000 to provide cloud computing software for the Covid-status certification scheme and has already helped roll out national ID systems in Albania, Ghana and Malaysia.
The Government has been accused of trying to usher in national ID cards “by the backdoor” after one firm awarded a vaccine passport contract boasted about being able to “redeploy” them into a national identity programme, i can reveal.
Entrust, a global IT firm, was awarded a contract by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) last month to work on the Government’s Covid vaccine certification system.
The company, which describes itself as a “global leader in identities, payments, and data protection”, was handed £250,000 to provide cloud computing software for the Covid-status certification scheme run by NHSX — the Government’s digital health unit.
A blog post on the company’s website from February, before the contract was signed, said vaccine passports could be used to “consider a national ID strategy” and “become part of the infrastructure of the new normal”.
Jann Markey, Entrust’s product marketing director, wrote: “With the infrastructure and investment necessary to ensure a viable vaccine passport, why not redeploy this effort into a national citizen ID programme that can be used for multiple purposes including the secure delivery of government services, secure cross-border travel, and documentation of vaccination.”
Entrust also hosted a webinar in January detailing how vaccine passports would enable governments “to collect valuable data” about citizens.
Senior product manager John Bejjani said: “You’ll understand why it’s not just for travel, you can take it and repurpose it to do such things as national IDs and permits.
“Deploying something like a mobile travel credential also enables governments to collect valuable data.“It can provide governments a quick and standard mechanism for securing their citizens.
“It also doesn’t hurt that this information can be used to identify criminals and other bad actors as they move around the same system trying to hide anonymously in the crowds.”
The company has already helped roll out national ID systems in Albania, Ghana and Malaysia using its digital technology.
The Minnesota-based firm has previously been awarded seven other contracts to produce technology for different Government bodies.
The contract with DHSC, which is due to expire in March 2022, can be extended for one year, meaning Entrust could be working on any vaccine passport scheme until 2023.
MPs and civil liberties groups have slammed the Government for signing a contract with the firm, claiming it marks the first step on the road to a national ID programme.
David Davis, former Cabinet minister and member of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) of Tory MPs, described the contract as “sinister” and demanded further explanation from the Government.
He told i: “The health department is able to go around signing these contracts without explicit Parliamentary permission. But it is doubly extraordinary that they sign one with a company with this sinister attitude to surveillance of citizens.
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith added that the contract “runs counter to the stated position of the Government and should be scrapped”.
Jake Hurfurt, head of research at civil liberties group Big Brother Watch told i that “Covid certificates would introduce ID cards in the UK by the backdoor.
“The fact that the government has done a deal with Entrust, a company which is openly plotting a route from vaccine passports to digital identity cards, only underlines what a serious threat Covid passes would be to our civil liberties and our privacy,” he said.
Baroness Shami Chakrabarti, former director of civil liberties group Liberty, said the contract with Entrust suggested ministers were trying to shuffle vaccine passports into legislation without proper Parliamentary debate.She said: “This isn’t a mere question of competence but far more sinister.
This is studied chaos.”We need to be explicitly reassured that the Government has not already decided in favour of some kind of national ID system.”
The Prime Minister earlier this year appointed Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove to oversee a review into the introduction of vaccine passports both for international travel and for entry to large-scale events with the UK.
Speaking in the Commons last month, Mr Gove said the Government is still reviewing whether Covid-status certifications could be used to help the return of “mingling at the bar” at large-scale pubs and to facilitate major events such as Premier League matches.
A DHSC spokesperson said: “The NHS App is not and will not be used as a national ID system.
“The COVID-19 vaccine status service provides a simple and secure means of verifying users’ vaccination status for international travel. The service shows only a very small part of an individual’s medical record and this information is held securely by the NHS.”
Entrust did not respond to requests for comment.