Former Prime Minister Tony Blair compared the coronavirus with the game, where people who are seriously lost, and proposed the president of Russia’s state bank Sberbank German Gref to promote the idea of a digital ID using the COVID-19 crisis. The conversation between Blair and Gref took place during the training Polygon Cyber 2020 was conducted on the YouTube channel “Sberbank TV”.
“Coronavirus — like game: the majority of the infected people survive, but we understand that for some it can have serious consequences,” Blair said adressing the situation with the government should “quarantine the whole economy” for the survival of a supposedly small number of people.
Blair proposed the digital ID project as a possible solution to deal with this situation. He stated that if people have biometric information associated with their IDs, they can prove that their test for coronavirus was negative, or that they have already been ill and have antibodies, then countries can return to normal. Another field of the digital ID employment, according to Blair, is the migration policy and citizens’ communications with authorities.
It’s interesting to note that the proposals made during the Polygon Cyber 2020 go fully in the framework of the posture of the liberal part of the Russian elites that seeks to strengthen its control over the social life of people by introducing various surveillance measures and additional limitations under the pretext of the COVID-19 outbreak. This trend is especially strong in Moscow. The current head of Sberbank is a bright representative of this group. He has been pushing the idea of creating some ‘special’ social and political cluster in Moscow for a while. The coronavirus issue allowed this situation to become a developing trend with Moscow authorities imposing a local automated monitoring system, digital passes (for the period of the movement limitations) and collecting personal data of city residents.
Additionally, the Russian Ministry of Communications has developed a regulation for tracking contacts of coronavirus infected people based on geolocation and data from mobile operators. The corresponding draft order of the ministry is published on the portal of draft regulatory legal acts.
If the situation develops in this direction and further, the COVID-19 crisis may be used the formal pretext for turning big cities of Russia (at least Moscow) into a testing ground for modern digital technologies of the control and surveillance over citizens. In conditions when business, politicians and organizations publicly supporting values of the so-called neo-liberal world order are rapidly losing their popularity in Russia, for them such a situation will be one of the last chances to remain on the top of the country’s governance system.
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