Summary of Re-Check | Follow The Money in-depth investigation
Catherine Riva, Serena Tinari – | Jannes van Roermund
November – December, 2021

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

Re-Check published, in collaboration with Dutch investigative journalist Jannes van Roermund, a three-parts series on the potential for #FunctionCreep of the Covid-19 passports (also called “green pass”, “health pass”, “Covid pass”, “Covid certificates”).

From September 2021, the scope of validity of the Covid-19 certificate has been successively extended in most countries. Today, the Covid-19 QR code is no longer just a “modern, simple and secure” solution that, as we were told a few months ago, was supposed to “open up the world and give people the opportunity to travel again”: it has become an indispensable prerequisite for participating in society.

Given the speed at which Covid-19 certificates have been deployed, the data protection problem they pose, and the place they now occupy in our society, it is legitimate to ask: when will the authorities stop enforcing this tool? The history of technology teaches us that the answer may well be: perhaps never. Because when a “temporary” solution of this kind is put in place, there is a great risk that it becomes permanent and ends up being used for a different purpose than the one initially intended. This is known as “function creep”. As Bert-Jaap Koops of Tilburg University in the Netherlands explains: “What distinguishes function creep from innovation is that it involves a qualitative change in functionality that raises concerns. Not only because of the change itself, but also because this change is not sufficiently recognized as transformative and would therefore require discussion.”

In the case of the Covid-19 certificate, everything indicates that the risk of function creep is particularly serious. Because one of the function creep’s possibilities for this device coincides precisely with the agenda of powerful interest groups. Since 2020, these private and state actors have been presenting the implementation of the Covid-19 certificate as a way to create a wallet for digital identity (e-ID). Our research has shown that a maze of governmental and non-governmental entities is in fact piggybacking the crisis.

“Digital identity systems are booming,” said Tommy Cooke of the Surveillance Studies Centre at Queen’s University in Canada and Benjamin J. Muller, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at King’s University College, University of Western Ontario. Before stressing that these risks go beyond issues of cybersecurity, responsible governance and organizational accountability: “We encourage everyone to ask themselves this big but important question: what does it mean to digitize identity, and what is the model identity? In other words, what is the model citizen of a digital ID system, and how will their citizen profile be used to develop the data categories and databases needed for verification?”

First episode: Function creep and transparency “à la carte”

To read the full episode, click here

In this first episode, you’ll learn about the meaning of “function creep”. Additionally, it contains an exclusive about Switzerland. Re-Check was delivered a leak, the recording of a zoom meeting between government officials and players participating to the deployment of the Swiss COVID certificate. Our research and the exchanges we have had, and are hereby publishing, with the Swiss Ministry of Health show that sensitive data are stored. And this hasn’t been transparently communicated to the public.

The implementation of Covid-19 certificates is welcomed by an array of commercial and governmental instances that are since years working on the introduction of e-ID systems. Digital identity or e-ID is a digital solution that allows citizens to prove their identity. It links a unique identifier to a set of attributes stored in digital form (name, date of birth, gender), which are themselves linked to credentials. Also, medical thus confidential data of Swiss citizens being issued a Covid-19 certificate are stored with the facility that performed the test or the vaccine, coupled with the UVCI, a unique certificate identifier of every Covid-19 certificate.

Second episode: What the Covid crisis has to do with e-ID

To read the full episode, click here

To view the detailed map (“Covid-19 certificates and e-Id: Investigating and Mapping Ghost-Management at Work”), click here.

In this second episode, you’ll learn about some of the players that are working to make e-ID systems implemented worldwide. To view the detailed map (“Covid-19 certificates and e-Id: Investigating and Mapping Ghost-Management at Work”), click here.

The COVID crisis is accelerating the development and the implementation of e-ID systems, that have been since several years pursued and developed by an array of commercial and governmental entities. In this episode, a graphic visualization puts together many different players that have something to do with this historical though potentially concerning development (click here). The public deserves to be informed about these developments.

Third episode: The e-ID and Central Bank Cryptocurrencies

To read the full episode, click here

In this third episode, you’ll learn about the advent of cryptocurrencies issued by central banks, also known as “central bank digital currency2 (CBDC), and get to know what this has to do with e-ID and Covid-19 certificates.

As often is the case, an international crisis is accelerating historical and ground-breaking developments. The advent of digital currency is currently being pushed by different public and commercial players. Linked to e-ID and proof of vaccination, such developments might end up changing our society for good. A large public debate is sorely missing.


“Wetenschappers waarschuwen voor een nieuwe digitale identiteit” (Scientists caution against a new digital identity)

Jannes van Roermund – Follow The Money | Catherine Riva, Serena Tinari –
December, 2021

Dutch investigative journalist Jannes van Roermund published along with Re-Check the long read “Wetenschappers waarschuwen voor een nieuwe digitale identiteit” (Scientists warn of a new digital identity) on Follow The Money (FTM) (*). The article has been translated into English as well (here)

The advent of a digital ID card has come a lot closer due to the corona crisis. It may be convenient, but the technology behind it also collects personal information that can never be deleted.

(*) FTM is a Dutch investigative, multiple price winning outlet dedicated to “follow the money” and defend democracy. (More)

On “Follow The Money”: Wetenschappers waarschuwen voor een nieuwe digitale identiteit / Scientists caution against new digital identity

To read the full article, click here (Dutch) or here (English)

Big tech companies and governments are promoting the advent of a new, digital identity for everyone. The corona crisis is giving them the wind in their sails. It may be convenient, but the technology behind it also collects personal information that can never be deleted. Experts warn of the consequences: “This is the end of freedom.”

  • The lobby for a corona pass and a “QR society” is led by the digital identity industry, and it is getting results: the European Commission expects to expand the corona pass into a “perfect digital wallet”.
  • Brussels is working on an ID system based on blockchain, the technology that is also promoted by the lobby of large companies.
  • Because information on blockchain cannot be deleted, experts fear that a permanent log of movements, actions and transactions of all citizens will be created. They call a digital identity based on blockchain “more than dystopian”. But both The Hague and Brussels embrace this model, arguing that citizens would become “masters of their own data” again.
  • The Netherlands is a forerunner and will be the first European country to try out a prototype of a digital ID.


Update: In Switzerland and in the European Union, the authorities are perpetuating controversial devices behind the scenes

Catherine Riva, Serena Tinari –
February 2022

The Federal Council announced on February 2nd, 2022, that the domestic use of the COVID certificate in Switzerland could be revoked on February 17. The proposal is currently under consultation with the cantons. It is only a small step to the conclusion, that the days of this system are numbered. In reality, though, everything indicates that the authorities intend to continue its development as well as that of the tracking app SwissCovid, which is also very controversial.

To read the full article, click here

About our work

Re-Check in-depth reports are published in open access, under Creative commons license. Issued in English, French and German, they can be reproduced after checking in with us. If you like our work, consider donating to Re-Check – but please first make sure to read our Ethical Charter and Financial accountability policy.