Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Vaccine Passports Are Here- Is Your Data Privacy At Stake Again?

Traveling in today’s era has taken a disruptive turn! As governments all around the world make inoculations mandatory for travelers onboard all commutes like airplanes, trains, cruise ships, and the like, there is increasing skepticism that has raised various ethical and scientific questions.

As millions get vaccinated against the novel COVID-19 by the day, major political and corporate unions have put forward the notion of rolling out a ‘vaccine passport’ to help get life back on track to some extent. The vaccine passport will essentially represent a certificate of inoculation that will be easily accessible and verifiable by authorities. 

With inoculations at an all-time high, President Joe Biden has pledged to reinforce ‘normalcy’ through vaccine passports in the coming months in an effort for businesses to resume. Officials have also stated that multiple alliances including NPOs and corporate giants are working hand in hand with the government of late. 

ALSO READ: This is post-COVID world, and virtual museums might become the future of Europe’s tourism

What is a Vaccine Passport?

A nexus of major tech giants including Oracle, Salesforce, and Microsoft claimed to have been developing a streamlined system to help individuals keep a track of their health status digitally through an innovative approach known as a vaccine passport. This vaccine passport is set to become the most integral travel document in today’s world. As borders reopen, there is an urgent need for institutions around the world to issue an immunity document for all.

As the name might suggest, the vaccine passport is not issued as a physical passport. Instead, all information will be furnished via an app. All a user has to do is download the app on a smartphone and log details of their most recent COVID-19 test, body temperature, oxygen level, and basic inoculation details. Through the following details, the app will let the user and the authorities know if the individual is in a proper state to travel.

QR codes will also be generated in order to fasten up the process of furnishing one’s information.

India’s very own Aarogya Setu app is a widely acclaimed example. At the same time, the app makes use of Bluetooth and the user’s IP address for accessing and storing data, allegedly putting the privacy and autonomy of millions of users at risk.

Does your Vaccine Passport put your privacy at stake?

Organizations such as IBM and ICC have claimed, however, that their digital health passport will not compromise their user’s privacy. Rather it will make use of blockchain technology to verify health status. Further, it has also been stated that information will be encrypted thoroughly and will be accessible only to the user on their devices.

Now, the basic idea behind the vaccine passport is to create a new version of the yellow card or more commonly known as the International Certificate of Vaccination which is a WHO-approved document logged with one’s past inoculations. This ‘yellow card’ was rolled out roughly about 88 years back as combat gear against yellow fever. Established by the International Sanitary Convention for Aerial Navigation situated in The Hague, Netherlands, this yellow card has since been adopted by the WHO.

Some organizations like the WTTC (World Travel and Tourism Council) have branded such vaccine passports as discriminatory. Rather, it believes in a ‘test and release’ scheme wherein travelers have to get themselves tested in order to prove they are free of COVID-19 and do not show any major health defects.

Due to the pandemic, there is an ever-increasing need for a globally recognized vaccine passport. Speaking of which, numerous tech companies have since stated that they are working on creating a digital passport that is safer and more secure than its predecessors.

Some of them are –

  • AOK Pass

The AOK pass, made by the ICC, is a safe and portable replica of your medical records. One of its features is that it is decentralized, allowing only the user to access the records eliminating any scope of a privacy breach. The first country to test the AOK Pass was Singapore where it reportedly received acclaim.

  • IATA Travel Pass

WHO has also been in talks with major organizations to develop digital standards for a safer vaccine passport which is tamper-proof and incorporates global standards. The IATA Travel Passport is also a mobile application that enables travelers to create their very own digital passports and receive inoculation certificates. These certificates can then be directly presented to aviation authorities to facilitate ease of travel.

  • The Common Pass

In collaboration with The World Economic Forum, the Commons Project and a large group of partners, a globally operational platform called the Common Pass has been launched for the common man to document his/ her COVID-19 status along with other health declarations, inoculation logs, and the like. Prominent organizations like the Air Council International have sanctioned the use of Common Pass for travels.

Siddharth Kulkarni
Siddharth is an incoming FMV Analyst and B.Com Hons graduate from Delhi University. Siddharth holds several positions of authority at a college level at various societies namely The Young Entrepreneurs Society and The Hult Prize. He is an enterprising youngster who is passionate about learning and growing as a person with each successive day. He is a hardworking and self-confident individual who possesses zeal and grit and loves to work with details. Being a sportsperson as well as an academic achiever, he love to surround himself with healthy competition.

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