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UK immunity passport proposals leverage biometric facial recognition

Onfido, Yoti, IDnow, iDenfy, OCL make pitches
UK immunity passport proposals leverage biometric facial recognition

The UK has published the initial round of proposals from biometrics and digital ID providers for its planned “immunity passport” to trace COVID-19 infections, Business Insider reports.

Government officials have held talks with a number of identity verification startups, according to the report, about different schemes, with many involving facial recognition in combination with official documents, QR codes, and test results. The credential would be used toconfirm the individual’s health status to grant entrance to private property, such as a business.

The UK health service’s innovation agency NHSX called for businesses and technology experts to submit their ideas for providing immunity passports.

Companies making proposals include Onfido, Yoti, IDnow, OCL, and iDenfy.

A diagram from Onfido’s proposal shared by Business Insider shows “digital identity” from Onfido feeding the immunity passport, with a check of “Me” or the “real self,” presumably with biometrics, being transmitted to both the company to create the digital identity, and NHS to generate the immunity certificate, which the passport links with the digital ID.

The WHO and NHS officials have warned that the concept of immunity credentials relies on accurate testing, but the accuracy of immunity tests is so far questionable. Business Insider points out that the UK government has yet to commit formally to authorizing immunity passports, and may wait for more data on whether or not people can be infected again after recovering from COVID-19.

“The science is a considerable way from being able to underpin something like that,” said NHSX CEO Matthew Gould in an appearance before the government’s Science and Technology Committee. “We’ve been approached by any number of people offering us solutions in this space [and we are] looking at what’s available.”

“I wouldn’t want the tech cart to come before the horse,” he added.

ID2020’s Executive Director explored some of the risks and challenges related to immunity passports or certificates in a recent report calling for biometrics to be used to address privacy concerns. Implementing the concept is said to be fraught with “devilish details,” though NHS has already expanded its use of biometrics-backed digital ID to cope with the crisis.

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