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Verification Theatre at Borders and in Pockets

Veale, Michael; (2024) Verification Theatre at Borders and in Pockets. In: Flood, Colleen M and Chen, YY Brandon and Deonandan, Raywat and Halabi, Sam and Thériault, Sophie, (eds.) Pandemics, Public Health, and the Regulation of Borders: Lessons from COVID-19. (pp. 240-251). Routledge: London, UK. Green open access

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The COVID-19 pandemic saw the creation of a wide array of digital infrastructures, underpinning both digital and paper systems, for proving attributes such as vaccination, test results or recovery. These systems were hotly debated. Yet this debate often failed to connect their social, technical and legal aspects, focusing on one area to the exclusion of the others. In this paper, I seek to bring them together. I argue that fraud-free “vaccination certificate” systems were a technical and social pipe dream but one that was primarily advantageous to organizations wishing to establish and own infrastructure for future ambitions as verification platforms. Furthermore, attempts to include features to ostensibly reduce fraud had, and risks further, broader knock-on effects on local digital infrastructures around the world, particularly in countries with low IT capacities easily captured by large firms and de facto excluded from and by global standardization processes. The paper further reflects on the role of privacy in these debates and how privacy, and more specifically, confidentiality, was misconstrued as a main design aim of these systems, when the main social problems could manifest even in a system built with state of the art privacy-enhancing technologies. The COVID-19 pandemic should sharpen our senses towards the importance of infrastructures and, more broadly, how to use technologies in societies in crises.

Type: Book chapter
Title: Verification Theatre at Borders and in Pockets
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.4324/9781003394006-27
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003394006-27
Language: English
Additional information: This chapter has been made available under a CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Laws
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10176570
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