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Photo: EyeEm / Core Rock

What’s Really at Stake with Vaccine Passports

– Centre for International Governance Innovation

How not enough is known about the risks of accelerating this digital identity solution to prove an individual’s health status

As the case for vaccine passports gathers momentum, Elizabeth Renieris writes how, running beneath the different schemes, is the complex and hard-to-define socio-technical concept of what digital identity means.

“All vaccine passport schemes rely on digital identity systems that implicate sensitive personal data (i.e. health status), and often rely on advanced biometrics like facial recognition and highly experimental technologies such as blockchain or distributed ledger technology.”

She goes on to explain how focus has been on the trade-offs between their potential use, against the privacy and security risks they present to individuals, but that this view is narrow and ignores the critical issues of inequitable vaccine distribution and vaccine nationalism raised by public health experts and ethicists.

While we are quite focused on the health information and technology components, we should not lose sight of the third identity-related pillar. In fact, rather than thinking about vaccine passports as temporary, isolated, public health-related measures, we should view them as just one example of how the pandemic is accelerating the rollout of digital identity infrastructure and consider the broader implications for society, particularly as commercial and economic incentives predominate

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