Harry Halpin (a researcher and CEO of privacy startup Nym Technologies) wrote a critical article about the standards used by prominent so-called immunity passports. Besides a technical critique of the standards, he also makes some important remarks about the risks related to the obduracy of the technologies:
The question should not be whether or not immunity passports can be technically secure and private, but whether or not they should be built at all. Due to the state of emergency caused by COVID-19, fundamental rights – such as the freedom of movement – could be taken away based on data connected to persistent digital identity. Yet temporary measures meant for a purpose as seemingly harmless as reviving tourism could become normalized as the blockchain-based identity databases are by design permanent and are difficult to disassemble once the crisis has past. Blockchain technology could just as easily allow automated discrimination based on personal data as it could enable travel during COVID-19, and form the technical basis for a ‘social credit’ system that crosses borders.
The full, non peer-reviewed article can be found at arXiv.
Politico Europe reports on a controversy surrounding the use of food labels in Europe. A method developed in France that uses a “traffic light scheme” is being questioned by the Italian government. This “Nutri-Score” uses an algorithm to produce a score based on the types of nutrients. The coding scheme is gaining traction in several Member States. But according to the Italian government it gives some Italian gourmet food a bad score, and they are therefore proposing their own alternative which “resembles a charging light-blue battery” to classify food. Great example of standards in the making and ontological politics.
Today I learned that there are standards in the patterns of the bumpy parts on pavements ("tactile paving") that help visually impaired people move around. Apparently there are different patterns that have their own meaning, such as when there are steps ahead or near a platform. Check out this video by Tom Scott that focuses on the patterns used in British streets. The standard they use (“Guidance on the use of Tactile Paving Surfaces”) can be found here.