The Commission’s plan to introduce a “Digital Green Pass” for EU citizens threatens fundamental rights in several respects. While the European Pirates in the Greens/EFA Group support measures that aim at restoring the freedom of movement, they need to be proportionate. The current vision for a legislative proposal on 17 March does not seem to reflect privacy standards and risks further social division and discrimination.
For the European Pirates Delegation in the European Parliament, the Commission’s concept of a digital vaccination passport, which is supposed to ensure free travelling by collecting medical records of EU citizens, is flawed at many levels. In order to guarantee freedom of movement as well as protect data privacy rights, Pirate MEPs suggest a solution based on paper, with the optional addition of digital certificates solely stored on personal decentralised devices such as mobile phones.
Patrick Breyer, German Pirate MEP, emphasizes the potential privacy threats:
“The EU proposal would create electronic national centralised vaccination registers. These could too easily be used for other purposes or hacked. Sensitive medical information belongs in the hands of the patient and their trusted medical professionals only. It is sufficient for travellers to provide proof of vaccination or testing on paper, with the additional option for a digital certificate. EU citizens shall retain full control over who has access to their health information.”
Marcel Kolaja, Pirate MEP and Vice-President of the European Parliament, comments:
“The European Pirates stand in full support of vaccination. However, we recognise that not everyone will have the chance to get vaccinated. The Commission has to guarantee that its proposal will not increase discrimination and social division within the bloc. Therefore, a PCR test before travelling shall be equivalent to vaccination. Additionally, the digital format of the passport raises serious privacy concerns, as highly sensitive medical records would need to be accessed.”
Czech Pirate MEP Markéta Gregorová elaborates on the Pirate Delegation’s demands:
“A strong data protection framework containing clear rules on who can request this certificate for what purpose must be defined. There is no need for third parties to keep copies with this information. We are suggesting a process allowing you to travel without quarantine, while minimising the sensitive personal data citizens have to provide. As patients we have the right to decide whether or not we want to share our medical records from the past, that’s why we believe separate up-to-date certificates instead of a cumulative COVID pass would present a sufficient solution.”
Pirate MEP and chairperson of the European Pirates Mikuláš Peksa concludes:
“No matter which direction the European Union takes in the issue of the vaccination passports, in addition to ensuring the necessity of data privacy, it must be clear that vaccination is not compulsory. No one can be discriminated because he/she will not be vaccinated. A negative Coronavirus test must always represent an alternative. Freedom of movement is a cornerstone of the EU.”
Scientific studies have already warned against using sensitive medical data as well as limiting freedom of movement, one of the founding principles of the EU. In addition, the Regional Director for Europe at the World Health Organization (WHO) recently expressed concerns over vaccination passports, pointing out that due to lack of data, vaccines have not been proven to prevent transmission of the COVID-19 virus yet.