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Brownstone Institute

Europe’s New Digital Identity Wallet: Security or Tyranny?

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From the Brownstone Institute

BY David ThunderDAVID THUNDER 

Last Wednesday, Thierry Breton, EU’s Internal Market Commissioner, proudly announced on Twitter/X that he had struck a deal with MEPs to create a European “digital identity wallet,” which would permit all EU citizens to have “a secured e-identity for their lifetime.”

According to the European Commission’s own website, the European Digital Identity can be used for a whole range of transactions, including providing personal identification on and offline, showing birth certificates and medical certificates, opening a bank account, filing tax returns, applying for a university, storing a medical prescription, renting a car, or checking into a hotel.

Several people, including Dutch MEP Rob Roos, have raised concerns that a centralised digital ID could put Europeans’ privacy and mobility rights in jeopardy. A letter signed by over 500 “cybersecurity experts, researchers, and civil society organisations from across the globe,” warns that the proposed digital ID regulations will reduce rather than enhance citizens digital security.

But one of its leading architects, Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton, maintains that “the wallet has the highest level of both security & privacy,” while EU President Ursula von der Leyen insists that this is “a technology where we can control ourselves what data is used and how.” So either critics are overplaying civil liberty and privacy concerns, or the technology’s defenders are downplaying them. They cannot both be right.

In theory, a universal European digital ID could be programmed on a permanent basis in such a way that the citizen has full control over which parts of his or her “digital wallet” he shares at any given moment, and which he or she does not share. We might have little to worry about if a European digital ID was programmed now and forever by people who took privacy seriously and were not inclined to exploit the technology at their fingertips to “nudge” – or even “shove” – citizens into complying with their policies concerning disease control, non-discrimination, war propaganda, or climate change.

But in practice, it would be highly naive to assume that a programmable Europe-wide digital ID, controlled by a centralised bureaucracy would not, sooner or later, be exploited to “nudge” (or shove) people into complying with the policies that happen to be favoured by the “powers that be.”

And it does not require a wild leap of imagination to envisage the sorts of ways a European digital ID could be leveraged to erode the equality and freedom of Europeans, since the very same individuals that are the public face of this digital ID initiative were the ones who set in motion the most pervasive system of bio-surveillance in the history of Europe, namely the so-called “Covid digital certificates.”

The operation of the Covid digital certificates, which was approved by both the European Commission (the same one now pushing for a digital ID system) and the European Parliament, can give us a fairly clear idea of the uses to which European technocrats are likely to put a digital ID system, if given the chance.

The Covid digital certificate was used to compel citizens who had not received a Covid vaccine within a certain time period to obtain a costly and inconvenient Covid test every time they crossed a European border, and was even used to deny entry to unvaccinated citizens at cultural and recreational venues across Europe. In other words, the Covid digital certificate served as a mechanism for coercing citizens into injecting a certain medication into their bloodstream, and created a two-tier society, in which the unvaccinated were treated as a new social and political underclass.

Now, imagine if a centrally controlled European digital certificate was offered to all European citizens as a tool for accessing a wide range of services, from banking, air travel and hotel stays to car rentals, access to recreational venues, and access to online digital services. Initially, presumably the certificate would be optional and citizens could use other methods for validating their identity. Then, under the pretext of enhancing citizens’ “security,” the certificate might very well become obligatory for an increasing number of transactions.

The next step would be to gradually expand the information contained on the certificate, and use the certificate as a way to deny or approve citizens’ access to certain services based on their spending habits, their vaccination status, or their “social credit” score. Of course, this is not something we can be 100% certain will happen. But the recent implementation of vaccine apartheid in Europe should disabuse us of any illusion that Europe’s political leadership are committed to respecting and defending our civil liberties or our equal access to public amenities and services.

Politicans like Thierry Breton and Ursula von der Leyen, and those MEPs and member state goverments that cheered them on during the pandemic, were prepared to treat citizens like cattle or disease vectors to be vaccinated and tested en masse, with scant regard for their personal medical history and risk factors. It is surely only a matter of time before people with this sort of contempt for individual liberty would be inclined to take advantage of a technology like a universal digital ID as a lever to control people’s private choices with a view to advancing their own careers and policy goals.

Quite a few citizens said “no” to an experimental vaccine, and quite a few citizens still question the scientific and political rationale for imposing burdensome carbon taxes, forcibly expropriating farmland based on climate directives, living in “15 minute cities,” making space for transgender ideology in their hospitals and classrooms, or abstaining from whatever the powers that be deem to be “hate speech.”

What better method to induce public compliance with unpopular or controversial public policies and laws than to reward compliance with enhanced mobility and enhanced access to social amenities and services, and punish non-compliance with reduced mobility and reduced access to services and amenities? Isn’t that exactly what the digital Covid certificate, a brainchild of the same Commission, did?

Obviously, advocates of a European digital ID will publicly claim they are only interested in promoting the security of our transactions and protecting our privacy. But since these are the very same people who dare to claim that medical segregation and coercion via vaccine passports “reassures us of (the) spirit of an open Europe, a Europe without barriers,” their assurances regarding citizens’ privacy and liberties have no credibility whatsoever.

Republished from the author’s Substack

Author

  • David Thunder

    David Thunder is a researcher and lecturer at the University of Navarra’s Institute for Culture and Society in Pamplona, Spain, and a recipient of the prestigious Ramón y Cajal research grant (2017-2021, extended through 2023), awarded by the Spanish government to support outstanding research activities. Prior to his appointment to the University of Navarra, he held several research and teaching positions in the United States, including visiting assistant professor at Bucknell and Villanova, and Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Princeton University’s James Madison Program. Dr Thunder earned his BA and MA in philosophy at University College Dublin, and his Ph.D. in political science at the University of Notre Dame.

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Brownstone Institute

Censorship and the Corruption of Advertising

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From the Brownstone Institute

The most powerful companies in the world have united against free speech, and they’ve deployed your tax dollars to fund their mission.

Last week, the House Judiciary Committee released a report on the little-known Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM) and its pernicious promotion of censorship. GARM is a branch of the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA), a global association representing over 150 of the world’s biggest brands, including Adidas, British Petroleum, Nike, Mastercard, McDonald’s, Walmart, and Visa.

The WFA represents 90% of global advertising spending, accounting for almost $1 trillion per year. But instead of helping its clients reach the broadest market share possible, the WFA has appointed itself a supranational force for censorship.

Rob Rakowitz and the Mission to Supplant the First Amendment

Rob Rakowitz, the leader of the WFA, holds a particular disdain for free speech. He has derided the First Amendment and the “extreme global interpretation of the US Constitution,” which he dismissed as “literal law from 230 years ago (made by white men exclusively).”

Rakowitz led GARM’s effort to boycott advertising on Twitter in response to Elon Musk’s acquisition of the company. GARM bragged that it was “taking on Elon Musk” and driving the company’s advertising income “80% below revenue forecasts.”

Rakowitz also championed the unsuccessful effort to have Spotify deplatform Joe Rogan after he expressed skepticism for young, healthy men taking the Covid vaccine. Rakowitz attempted to intimidate Spotify executives by demanding to hold a meeting with them and a team that he said represented “P&G [Proctor and Gamble], Unilever, Mars,” and five advertising conglomerates. When a Spotify employee said he would meet with Rakowitz but not his censorsial consortium, Rakowitz forwarded the message to his partner, writing “this man needs a smack” for denying his demands.

The WFA extended its efforts to direct manipulation of the news market. Through a partnership with the taxpayer-funded Global Disinformation Index, GARM launched “exclusion lists,” which created de facto boycotts from advertising on “risky” sites, which it described as those that showed the “greatest level of disinformation risk.” These lists included the New York Post, RealClearPolitics, the Daily Wire, TheBlaze, Reason Magazine, and The Federalist. Left-wing outlets, such as the Huffington Post and Buzzfeed News, were placed on the list of “Least risky sites,” which facilitated increased advertising revenue.

GARM, the WFA, and Rakowitz is the latest scandal demonstrating the destruction of our liberties at the hands of consolidated power. Like the Trusted News Initiative or the Biden White House’s censorship efforts, the aim is to remove all sources of dissent to pave the way for the further corporatization of the oligarchy that increasingly replaces our republic.

The WFA’s Attack on Democracy

Just as Rakowitz could not hide his contempt for the First Amendment, WFA CEO Stephan Loerke demanded that his conglomerate overtake the democratic process.

In preparation for the Cannes Lions Festival (a gathering of billionaires and multinational corporations in the South of France every June), Loerke released a statement demanding companies “stay the course on DEI and sustainability.” According to Loerke, these policies must include responses to “climate change” and the promotion of “net zero” policies,” which have already wreaked havoc on Europeans’ quality of life.

Loerke wrote: “If we step back, who will push for progress on these vital areas?” Though he suggests the answer must be nobody, traditionally self-governing countries would charter their own courses in those “vital areas.” And in that paradigm, the corporation would be subordinate to the state.

But instead, the WFA has inverted that system. Through its clients, the trillion-dollar behemoth extracts money from governments and then deploys those funds to demand that we accept their reshaping of our culture. The parasite becomes the arbiter of “progress,” eroding the society responsible for its very existence.

As the WFA sought to punish any groups that criticized the Covid response, its client Abbott Laboratories received billions of dollars in federal funding to promote Covid tests in the US Army. As Loerke demands “net zero” policies that will unravel the Western way of life, WFA patrons like DellGEIBM, and Microsoft receive billions in revenue  from the US Security State.

The organization is fundamentally detached from traditional advertising, which aims to connect businesses with consumers to sell products or services; instead, it is a force for geopolitical and cultural manipulation.

Perhaps no WFA client better represents this phenomenon than AB InBev, the parent company to Bud Light, which destroyed billions of dollars in market value last year after selecting Dylan Mulvaney as the icon for its advertising campaign.

On its surface, the selection of Mulvaney as a spokesman appeared to be the result of an executive class detached from their clientele. But Rakowitz and the WFA reveal a deeper truth; they don’t misunderstand the public, they loathe them.

The organization is a force designed to punish them for their unfavorable, unapproved belief systems. It is an attack on the freedoms written into our Constitution as “literal law from 230 years ago,” as Rakowitz scoffed. The mission is to eviscerate “the right to receive information and ideas,” as our Supreme Court recognized in Stanley v. Georgia, and to make our republic subservient to its corporate oligarchy.

The stakes here are very high. The economic revolution of the 15th century and following was about a dramatic shift in decision-making, away from elites and toward the common people. With that came a wider distribution of property and rising wealth over many centuries, culminating in the late 19th century. Along with that came a shift in the focus of marketing, away from elites and toward everyone else.

The consolidation of advertising and its control by states strikes at the very heart of what free economies are supposed to be about. And yet, states that desire maximum control over the public mind must go there. They must gain full hegemony and that includes advertising. It should be stopped before it is too late to restore freedom over corporatism.

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Brownstone Institute is a nonprofit organization conceived of in May 2021 in support of a society that minimizes the role of violence in public life.

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Brownstone Institute

Imagine Life without Fossil Fuels

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From the Brownstone Institute

By Thi Thuy Van Dinh

At 4 am on Tuesday 9th July in Seville (Spain), I woke up alerted by a text to my phone. “We had a bad night with Hurricane Beryl. Your house still stands and the critters are safe, two big trees down, no electricity, no Internet, and poor phone service.”

My children and I were visiting Andalusia, one of the oldest and most gorgeous European regions, blessed with the best food and the warmest people. This is one of my favorite places on earth, but for now, my family and I are calling South of Houston (Texas, US) home.

I panicked, being instantly seized by maternal instinct. Our entire house is run by electricity. On our return in a few days, there would be no warm food, no milk, no air conditioning, no TV, no running water, no toilet flushing. In town, neither kid activities nor story time at local libraries. These conditions are undoubtedly hard for young children who have only known comfort so far, although hundreds of millions of children are growing up in such circumstances daily.

Then I calmed down. The first thing to do should be thanking God for protecting human lives there, and for our wonderful friends and community.

I understood what happened immediately. Trees have fallen everywhere, taking down most of the grid and affecting more than a million people. It would take a few weeks to fix it. Houston would be first, of course, the crowded and business-minded urban areas will be rightly prioritized and rural areas follow after. After such largesse provided for the solar industry by successive American administrations, why has there been no money to put wires and cables underground in hurricane-prone regions?

We always have a month of canned meat and dry salami, drinking water, olive oil, lard, animal feed (we have some farm animals,) and 750 gallons of water in storage, candles, matches, and flashlights. For emergency situations like a war or a natural disaster. We have a pool conveniently built for Texan summer heat even though the filter won’t work. I can dig a hole in the garden if I want to give the kids some survival training, or I can use the pool water for toilet flushing. Our hens and ducks give us more than enough fresh eggs daily.

But I should have kept a few solar phone chargers and probably some solar panels for our well pump (solely activated by electricity). My husband should have had a better stock of gas to run our generator through the fridge and the two freezers. At least, I can still grill and the kids can help gather dry branches to make a fire and cook camping meals. After all, it is easier to survive without energy in a hot place than in a cold place.

My situation isn’t probably the worst, and I will be able to help some people around me with food and water. I will entertain the kids with games I used to play under the moonlight and the starry sky. However, with little or no gas (petrol) in town, and likely long lines at available stations, I will have to calculate our car trips well.

I told my 7-year-old what happened. He said he would fry eggs on the car and roast marshmallows on sticks. Young children are such marvelous beings. With only their imagination and innocence, they bring wonders to our world. Who knows, we might be lucky enough to catch some fireflies in a jar – I replied, nurturing his excitement. As his mother, I have the duty to minimize his suffering. Nevertheless, I would like to seize this opportunity to give him and his younger sister some duress training on life without fossil fuels – coal, gas, and oil to power modern devices – a bit like how I grew up.

Have the international, national, and non-governmental Net Zero crusaders ever lived a day without using any technology powered or facilitated by fossil fuels and their byproducts?

I would like to invite them to live here with us. I will show them that had I had solar panels on my roof, I would likely be cleaning up all of their dangerous debris around the house. Right now, a Tesla would be of less use than an ox cart in my Texan town.

But life at my homestead after Hurricane Beryl seems rather poetic. Well-prepared, a week or two without electricity might equal an ecological or soul-searching retreat with meditation time, good books on a hammock, bird-watching, simple yet exotic farm-to-table meals, and constellation identification.

For a real experience of a life without fossil fuels, climate leaders and activists should consider signing up for the sustainability internship program offered by Mr Jusper Machogu, a Kenyan farmer who was recently attacked by the BBC for his campaign on X requesting “Fossils Fuels for Africa.” Participants will learn how to grow foods without technologies powered by fossil fuels and live with a minimal impact on nature in rural Kisii.

Ploughing the land with bare hands before planting isn’t fun at all. Watering the crops regularly might well bring people closer to God with spontaneous prayers. Weeding or harvesting by squatting under the sun is tough. Even without factoring in any risk of pests, diseases. and unfavorable weather, what are the chances they would have to get out of poverty and food insecurity without cheap, reliable, abundant, and scalable energy?

Billions of subsistence families are still going through this. Worse, they continue to put their health at risk by cooking with agricultural wastes, wood sticks, and cow dung, while the Western world and their investment funds shamelessly demand poor countries and their populations to adopt intermittent, expensive, and unreliable green energies, instead of supporting fossil fuels (as well as hydropower and nuclear) production and infrastructure.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who repeatedly called to “close the door on fossil fuel era” (on International Clean Energy Day – 26 January 2024), would you live entirely and produce your own foods without fossil fuels?

United Nations Environment Program’s (UNEP) Chief Inger Andersen, who, at the closing of the 28th Climate COP (Dubai, UAE), claimed that “we know the solutions, we know what needs to be done,” would you be able to build a town for your staff without using oil, gas, and their byproducts?

How may we, as voters and taxpayers, demand that decision-makers lead by example, truly adhering to their green agenda first, before they insist that others implement it?

Author

Dr. Thi Thuy Van Dinh (LLM, PhD) worked on international law in the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Subsequently, she managed multilateral organization partnerships for Intellectual Ventures Global Good Fund and led environmental health technology development efforts for low-resource settings.

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