Detail of the map presented in the second episode (here)
Catherine Riva, Serena Tinari – | Jannes van Roermund
November – December, 2021

En français (en ligne) / Auf Deutsch (online)

In collaboration with Dutch investigative journalist Jannes van Roermund, Re-Check took an in-depth look at the actors that gravitate around eight pro E-ID and pro-Covid-19-certificates initiatives, as well as the interests that link them to these projects.

Among the actors we were able to highlight are foundations, governmental and non-governmental organizations, consulting firms, technology giants (Big Tech), but also university hospitals, representatives of the eHealth domain, as well as a multitude of companies active in the field of digital identity solutions, biometric data and technologies such as blockchain – our list in not exhaustive. Our map allows to visualize a vast lobbying apparatus, set up to facilitate the transition to e-ID on as global a scale as possible.

The inventory we present here is not complete, and we will likely modify this map as we research this complex web of supranational signs and initiatives carried by giants of globalized capitalism, banks, credit companies, central banks, government agencies, contracting firms, billionaires’ foundations, and a myriad of corporate backers.

Already at this stage, our investigation’s result suggests that multilateral and totalizing strategies have been deployed to better shape the social determinants of value of the novel measure of Covid-19 certificates. The social determinants of value involve the social structures and practices, thought patterns, knowledge, desires, or policy decisions that determine the value of a product. Clearly, the advent of Covid-19 certificates has had a profound impact at this level.

The work of Marc-André Gagnon and Sergio Sismondo shows that the production of social determinants of value is at the heart of the ghost-management practices of the biopharmaceutical sector. We postulate that similar strategies have been applied in the case of the Covid-19 and e-ID certificates and that, therefore, it is relevant to apply the “ghost-management” analytical grid to understand the current events, which emerged from a crisis presented as health-related, but which now affect other aspects of life in society. This research approach should make it possible to identify the captures that have been achieved through this ghost-management.

We will endeavor to verify the validity of this hypothesis over the coming months.

Explanatory note

This map presents the players that gravitate around eight initiatives, as well as the interests that link them to these projects:

  • Identification for Development (ID4D)
  • Known Traveller Digital Identity (KTDI)
  • ID2020 Alliance
  • Covid Credentials Initiative
  • Good Health Pass
  • Vaccine Credential Initiative (VCI)
  • Covid-19 Coalition
  • Good ID

Their common denominators are as follows:

  • Their initiative is located at the intersection of the Covid-19 QR code deployment and the implementation of e-ID systems.
  • They articulate their actions around the same message: digital transformation is inevitable and desirable; the Covid-19 crisis shall be seen as a window of opportunity in order to accelerate the deployment of the e-ID, as well as of the ecosystem that the e-ID will enable.

Three initiatives (ID4D, KTDI and ID2020 Alliance) were founded before the Covid-19 crisis started. They have shifted some of their priorities with the advent of Covid-19.

Five initiatives (Covid Credentials Initiative, Good Health Pass, Vaccine Credential Initiative, Covid-19 Coalition, and the Good ID Initiative) emerged in response to the crisis and in order to generate solutions to address it.

All are public-private partnerships, but Covid Credentials Initiative and GoodID.

Some of them have a limited number of members. Conversely, others come with dozens or even hundreds of members. The lists included in this map are therefore not exhaustive.

Among the actors involved are foundations, governmental and non-governmental organisations, consulting firms, technology giants (Big Tech), but also university hospitals, representatives of the eHealth domain, and a multitude of companies active in the field of digital identity solutions, biometric data and technologies such as blockchain (non-exhaustive list). Many of these players are part of what Privacy International calls the “e-ID industry”.

The arrows between the different players should not be interpreted as evidence that “someone is pulling strings”. They only represent links of interest that we have been able to identify. Their number speaks for the magnitude of the efforts and the financial stakes, but also the stakes in terms of control. For the next decade, the digital identity solutions’ global market is estimated at reaching potentially several tens of billions of dollars per year: “In the post-COVID-19 scenario, the global digital identity solutions market size is projected to grow from USD 23.3 Billion in 2021 to USD 49.5 Billion by 2026, recording a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 16.2% from 2021 to 2026. The market’s growth can be attributed to the increase in instances of identity-related frauds and data breaches and the need for compliance with various upcoming regulations.”
MarketsandMarkets, July 2021

ID2020 is the most influential player. This think tank was founded well before the Covid-19 crisis by, among others, Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, which aims to increase access to vaccinations worldwide. Other founding fathers include the philanthropic Rockefeller Foundation, the consulting firm Accenture, the tech giant Microsoft and the relatively unknown consulting firm IDEO.

More companies have since joined ID2020, including Mastercard, Facebook and the biometric start-up Simprints. This think tank “houses some of the biggest players,” says Alexandrine Pirlot de Corbion of Privacy International. “In terms of scale, they have a huge market share in different aspects of digital ID.”

More than 125 companies, institutions and government organizations have united in the Good Health Pass Collaborative, which aims at a global standard for Covid-19 certificates. Many companies whose portfolio includes biometric products such as facial recognition technologies are affiliated. ID2020 is the coordinator. From the Good Health Pass Collaborative’s most recent press release, you can tell which technology is considered bon ton: everyone wants blockchain.

Among advocates of Covid-19 certificate, cross-links to business can almost always be found.

Key players include Microsoft, which set e-identity “at the top of its agenda” and has a very extensive lobbying network; Mastercard, which entered into a “strategic partnership” with Microsoft in 2018 and is already experimenting in African countries by linking vaccination status, biometric data and payment options; and IBM, which collaborated to the blockchain QR in Germany.

The role of non-profit organizations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Omidyar Network and the Rockefeller Foundation is also interesting: they often act as initiatives’ funders and thus incur the wrath of conspiracy theorists. At the same time, they are rarely critically scrutinized by journalists and scientists.

Multinationals almost never make a prominent call for a “Covid Pass” in their own name.

Many times, those calls are to foundations, think tanks and coalitions at such as the Trust Over IP Foundation, the Commons Project, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, the Centre for Global Development and the Vaccination Credential Initiative, which – almost without exception – partner with entities belonging to “Big Tech” or “Big NGO”. “They drive this agenda because they have products to sell,” says Privacy International’s Pirlot de Corbion. “They’re either involved in services, infrastructure, or access to infrastructure.”