WHO Decides? Part 2: Data

My health is none of your business

Nation states have only months to decide not to commit to the amended WHO International Health Regulations and the Treaty that accompanies them. In part 1, we discussed the impact on your money, and here we will talk about the effect on your data, your privacy and your freedom. It is worth repeating that beliefs about what happened with covid are not relevant to this discussion. You could think that covid was the biggest public health disaster in history and these plans should still concern you. The WHO is building a centralised health database for the world, and if you don’t act your health details will be in it.

You may believe that the WHO is a benign entity — it used to be. However, in recent years it has lost its focus on improving the lives of those least well off. Instead, after helping to establish various public private partnerships, it now has a much more commercial outlook to health. What used to be core priorities have become a sideshow in its overall spending and strategy.

It is now fully focused on pandemics and the response to them. The response they propose to the next one is far from benign. Rather than leave decision making in the hands of democratically accountable nation states they want a uniform global response. Remember this is about the best response to novel viruses, where by definition no-one knows the best response. No-one will find out either if everyone behaves the same way. WHO decides.

The chair of the WHO working group on the International Health Regulations amendments said last week that the world requires a different level of legal mandates” and went on to specify a need to prioritise “actions that may restrict individual liberties” and the “mandating and sharing of information, knowledge and resources”. (Isn’t the mandating of the sharing of resources a euphemism for stealing?)

The International Health Regulations amendments and proposed treaty would also demand extensive data sharing. Superficially, the requirements are for data sharing in an epidemic context, with a particular emphasis on genomic sequence data. Much of it is vague talking of “including building digital health and data science capacities.” However, reading on, this data sharing initiative quickly morphs into travel requirements. 

Their claimed justification for this is that “there is no standardised and international recognized electronic system to allow for safe and secure data transfer between passengers and the competent health authorities of a State Party for contact tracing purpose, in case of a reported infectious disease.” Why on earth do we need a supranational body involved in passenger location forms — whether or not there is a risk of infectious disease. The data on arriving passengers is a matter for the nation involved. In fact, collecting such data at a supranational level would contravene current EU and UK GDPR rules which strictly prevent the collection of data that is not needed for a specific purpose; after all, surely contact tracing is a national-level activity. WHO decides.

Specifically, Article 23 says that passenger locator forms must be produced in digital form that fulfil the WHO interoperability requirements. Menacingly, they also specify that there must be “safeguards to reduce the risk of abuse and falsification” suggesting the collection of biological identifiers. It goes on in Article 35: “Digital health documents must incorporate means to verify their authenticity via retrieval from an official web site, such as a QR code.”  In Article 36 they specified a requirement for digital vaccination or prophylaxis certificates.” We’re told this is all for the purpose of contact tracing.” How will it actually be used? WHO decides.

Even more worryingly, the WHO contracted Deutsche Telekom to build “a global electronic verification system for coronavirus vaccination certificates.” This was reported in February 2022. At that point, Omicron had become dominant, the idea that vaccination was preventing infection had been confined to the dustbin and vaccine passports had been dumped globally. Why then was that the moment the WHO picked to contract a supranational global health database? 

Roll forward to June 2023 and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO, announced the launch of a “global digital health certification network”, building on the “success of the EU system.” He went on to say that it would be expanded to incorporate “international patient summaries.” Medical records used to have the most protection in terms of data sharing and yet now, without any option to opt out, sharing of medical data will be required for travel. WHO decides.

The EU has announced “the European Travel Information and Authorisation System” which will be operational in 2024. It will mean that UK citizens travelling to Europe will need a travel visa and they specified that “an application will be refused if the applicant… is considered to pose… a high epidemic risk.” It is astonishing that this language is still in use even after the worst vaccine failure in history.

The WHO and the EU have both made clear that liberties will be contingent on the sharing of medical data. Even if you are more than happy to consent to multiple vaccines, remember that if anything should happen that would make you want to opt out of one, be that an allergy, another illness or an adverse effect, you will have to choose between what’s best for your health and your ability to travel. If the treaty is signed then only WHO decides.

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