Health passes shake up digital identity landscape as Walmart chooses Clear biometrics

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Digital credentials being advanced for proof of COVID-19 testing or vaccination are continuing to spark concern, but also moving rapidly towards adoption, with governments and businesses staking positions and partnering up. Clear has been chosen by Walmart to provide biometric data security for digital vaccination records, Amadeus has added a new capability to accommodate the credentials, and the ICAO is now officially recommending testing certificates.

The ‘digital green pass’ system proposed in Europe does not meet the EU’s requirements for protection against data breaches and discrimination, a Pirate Party Member of European Parliament says, and a lack of specificity in the proposal is giving room to concerns about its use of blockchain and potential function creep, according to TechCrunch.

The plan is for the EU to make the pass available to all people within the bloc, and member states to set their requirements and regulate their use. The main condition from the European Commission seems to be that member states must accept passes showing receipt of a vaccine approved in the region.

The system is planned for roll-out before the summer, with few technical details included in an EC document on the plan, aside from the use of QR codes and W3C standards for decentralized identifiers (DIDs) and Verifiable Credentials. The pass is to include a “unique identifier,” but no explicit reference is made to biometrics or other methods of binding a person to a digital credential.

Nym Technologies CEO Harry Halpin tells TechCrunch that the use of W3C Verifiable Credentials could pose a privacy and security risk, and suggests the use of attribute-based credentials rather than a global identity.

EC Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said in a briefing on the project that the digital green pass will be temporary, but after deactivation following the end of the pandemic, could be brought back in the event of a future crisis.

Another affect of the EU’s decision may be to put further pressure on countries to establish national digital ID systems, potentially reframing the debate in Switzerland, UN economist Ian Richards writes for SwissInfo.

Swiss voters rejected the government’s proposal for a Swiss e-ID in a recent referendum, in large part due to concerns about data privacy given the central role of private businesses in the scheme. Many of those same voters are likely to go ahead and download vaccine passes such as IATA’s, however, Richards writes, when faced with the alternative of not travelling on airplanes.

Walmart partners with Clear and The Commons Project

People receiving COVID-19 vaccinations from the healthcare services departments of Walmart or Sam’s Club will also get digital vaccination records through Clear’s biometric Health Pass app and The Commons Project Foundation’s (TCP’s) CommonHealth and CommonPass apps.

The free apps are interoperable with the SMART Health Cards standard in development by the Vaccination Credential Initiative, which is co-chaired by TCP.

More than 50 organizations have now signed on to use Clear’s Health Pass, recently including Human API’s healthcare data network.

“We are proud to partner with Walmart and The Commons Project and help Walmart customers better control, access and share their health and vaccine information. Working together, this partnership will help deliver a free and secure experience and get people back to what they love,” said Caryn Seidman-Becker, Chairman and CEO of Clear.

TCP’s CommonPass and CommonHealth are free mobile apps, the latter only for Android, and the former specifically designed for people to share test results and vaccination records with trusted partners. CommonPass is being integrated into Clear’s digital identity platform to enable safe, low-friction experiences at airports, workplaces and hospitality and entertainment venues.

Amadeus adds health passes to Travel ID platform

Amadeus is introducing a new feature to its digital ID platform that will enable users to upload proof of COVID-19 vaccination and other digital documents to an airline app or website, Reuters reports,

Digital health passes like the IATA Health Pass or CommonPass can be integrated with Amadeus’ Traveler ID platform, enabling travelers to verify their status ahead of time, and using the same app as for other travel processes.

Monika Wiederhold, global lead for Amadeus’ safe travel ecosystem program, says social distancing pressures are leading some of the company’s customers to dedicate 90 percent of their check-in staff to process 30 percent of passengers, demonstrating the need for greatly improved efficiency.

ICAO recommends proof of testing, maybe vaccination

The ICAO Council has approved a series of new measures to help with the timely resumption of air travel, and is now up to 20 recommendations for governments and aviation industry stakeholders.

One of them relates directly to vaccine certificates.

“Member States should implement testing certificates based on the protocol, minimum dataset and implementation approaches outlined in the ICAO Manual on Testing and Cross-Border Risk Management Measures (Doc 10152) to facilitate air travel,” the group states as its seventeenth recommendation. “States are encouraged to request evidence of testing that is secure, trustworthy, verifiable, convenient to use, compliant with data protection legislation and internationally/globally interoperable. Existing solutions should be considered and could incorporate a visible digital seal. This may be applicable to vaccination certificates.”

The Council is also planning a conference for October with the participation of government ministers to build up political will for measures to support the air travel industry’s recovery.

GGA endorses initiatives

Generali Global Assistance and affiliated companies (GGA) have endorsed the Good Health Pass initiative and the WHO’s Smart Vaccination Working Group, and is supporting new digital health credentials with custom Travel Insurance options, according to a company announcement.

Certain travel insurance offerings from the major travel insurance provider will be tailored to accommodate entry requirements in various countries.

ID2020 Executive Director Dakota Gruener spoke recently with Biometric Update on the Good Health Pass initiative’s efforts to coordinate stakeholders to prevent fragmentation and ensure user privacy is protected by health passes.

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