Proponents of digital identification see the COVID-19 pandemic as a once-in-a-century opportunity, with a potential “jackpot market” of nearly eight billion people. In these dangerous times, using digital IDs to help control the spread of the virus and eventually to manage the distribution of a vaccine is often deemed appropriate and necessary. But there are ethical pitfalls. Rather than submitting people to a data-driven and AI-directed system that relies on surveillance and control through digital IDs, we should create more decentralized participatory frameworks. Collaborative approaches, based on the power of civil society, form the backbone of a strategy that uses our social talent to achieve humanity’s collective goals. By Dirk Helbing and Peter Seele.