Dr Liz Gordon: Gaming the Covid Vaccination Certificate

I have joined the land of the vaccinated.  As I recounted last week, my first jab was lost in administration, and I had to take action to amend the incorrect record that I had only had one jab, when in fact I had two.  I had little faith that it would be put right (on my sixth try) but suddenly, I am all signed up.  I have my vaccine certificate (or CVC as it is officially called). Yay.

I was keen to get it to try and subvert it. I read a very interesting Stuff article last week on the poor quality of the document.  It is just an ordinary PDF, and anyone with PDF editing software can, well, write their own form.

Within a couple of minutes, I had issued a CVC to Santa Claus, born in 1344.  But surely, I hear you say, all anyone has to do is check the QR code and they will know that this is not the real Santa?

But isn’t that exactly what everyone wanted to avoid – thousands of businesses, having to check the credentials of every single person who comes into their bar or swimming pool or gym? Bottlenecks at the entrance to large events? They need something that is secure and hard to forge. Why a PDF?  Why not a little app?

Indeed why not just upgrade the tracer app and embed the certificate? Easy peasy? Evidently not.

I dunno, but I predict a large rash of fake CVCs around the place over summer.  Many will be real attempts to dodge the rules, but I reckon we will see a large number of Mickey Mouses, Donald Trumps and Adolph Hitlers turning up for a night out. Flaunting a fake ID is yet another way for vaccine refusers to protest, and we will see some of this.

The trouble with this is that the burden will fall on the conscientious business owner who has downloaded the QR reader app and is determined to protect patrons by ensuring only doubly vaccinated persons pass through the doors.

So someone arrives at the door with a CVC and a driver’s licence in the name of Jane Smith, aged 30. But the QR code sys it is the certificate of John Smith, aged 55. There’s going to be an argument, isn’t there?  There’s going to be tears.

And what about this birthday malarkey?  Fortunately, I don’t think women lie about their age any more (it was mandatory in my Mother’s generation).  But one is likely to get the odd sharp intake of breath: “WHAT? Are you that old really”? Charming.

The new order passed last week did make it an offence to forge or borrow someone else’s certificate, but this will be such a minor offence that no penalty is even mentioned. And are the police going to rush mindlessly from venue to venue issuing fines?

I’m just saying that it is madness that the document on which our summer rests in so uniquely shonky. There are 350,000 people out there determined to protest the limitation on their freedoms in any way they can, and here is a method handed to them on a plate.

Anyhow, this may all be moot, as we may all be back in lockdown hiding from the multi-mutated Omicron variant.  Who’s heard of Omicron anyway?  Is it a letter of the Greek alphabet?  Why not Omega, the end of all things?  Or is that variant still to come?


Dr Liz Gordon is a researcher and a barrister, with interests in destroying neo-liberalism in all its forms and moving towards a socially just society. She usually blogs on justice, social welfare and education topics.

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