Home / Technology / Vaccine Passport Apps: Can Big Tech Do It Better Than Contact Tracking?

Vaccine Passport Apps: Can Big Tech Do It Better Than Contact Tracking?

It could be Big Tech shot to make a belly with pandemic solution tools after it failed attempted contact last year tracking apps, which used Bluetooth technology to alert people if they have been near anyone who tested positive for the virus. These products were plagued by problems measuring proximity while keeping data anonymous, alerts that failed to trigger and slow the adoption rate among states.

On paper, this latest effort should be much easier, but companies are facing a crowded app market and the potential for privacy concerns among some Americans.

Samsung recently announced that Galaxy device users can download the vaccination record from the CommonHealth app – created by the Commons Project Foundation, the same healthcare organization that works with some airlines to prove vaccination – and store it in the Samsung Pay digital wallet. Unlike some apps that do not check if uploaded vaccine cards are legitimate, users verify their identity and access their status from the pharmacy or healthcare provider who provided their shot.

“If Big Tech has specific apps they want to work with, this will go a long way in reducing the volume of applications that are currently flooding the market,” said Sam Gazeley, digital research analyst at ABI Research. “It would help to some extent by removing the risk of fraudulent certification from forged documents in circulation.”

Some vaccine confirmation apps, such as New York City’s NYC Safe app, have been criticized by some privacy experts for being a “clothed camera app” so users can upload photos of their vaccine card — or whatever preferably — and leave the responsibility to business owners to determine if it is genuine. (To date, countless counterfeit vaccine cards have been sold on the dark web and the US Border Patrol have seized thousands of counterfeits.)

In addition to confirming vaccine status, apps like the CommonHealth app and the New York Excelsior Pass app developed by IBM provide a QR code that can be scanned for entry into various businesses. They do not show any personal information other than whether the person has received a shot.

Some experts say that companies like Samsung, Google and Apple can play a significant role in the private and public sector coming together to create verifiable identification.

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“Technology companies are leading the way in U.S. efforts to verify digital Covid-19 credentials, but perhaps more importantly, having portable digital consumer health data stored in digital wallets,” said Donna Medeiros, senior research director at market research firm Gartner. “This means using mobile phones to share our data in a standardized way when, where and with whom we want.”

In June, Google announced that Android users will be able to store various test results and vaccine status from healthcare organizations, government agencies and organizations directly on devices. In the meantime, Apple’s iOS 15 software coming this fall can store verifiable vaccine records and test results in the Health app.
Apple told CNN Business that other vaccine verification apps available in the App Store are undergoing a rigorous approval process and that they only approve these from well-known units such as government organizations, health-focused voluntary organizations, medical and educational institutions and companies that are approved in health problems. Earlier this year, it published an update on health care apps to outline privacy requirements. Developers can use Apple’s PassKit framework to make these apps available on Apple Wallet.

Vaccine status apps have seen early adoption in California, New York and Louisiana as more people download their data and store it on their device, mainly due to local authorities requiring proof of vaccination to enter certain areas. It is also an appealing effort for smartphone manufacturers who do not have to control the process themselves.

Gazeley said that it is less risky to serve as a storage solution than to create software that monitors positions for privacy reasons.

Sets a mark

Last year, longtime rivals Google and Apple announced great fanfare they would work together to help governments track the spread of Covid-19 using Bluetooth technology. It was also ready to be a potential turning point in their many years of efforts to gain a larger foothold in the health industry. (Samsung did not have a contact tracking initiative).
Google and Apple’s apps are intended to anonymously monitor where people were traveling, who they were near, and notify them if they may have been exposed to the virus. Ultimately, they were buggy, presented privacy concerns and were not widely adopted.

Amy Loomis, research director at IDC who closely monitors future work trends, said that Big Tech’s efforts to support vaccine health care apps are innately better set up to succeed.

“Language means something,” she said. No one will be “tracked” or tracked, but we show “proof of” all the time – proof of employment with a brand, proof of legal age with the license.

“Even though [Apple and Google’s] involvement is limited to only offering the storage solution for the certificate itself, many will associate it with being issued by [the company] although this is not the case, “Gazeley said. So in this way, it achieves more for them than the contact tracking apps. “

Challenges ahead

Not everyone is convinced that Big Tech will succeed. According to Albert Cahn – whose experiment that uploaded a photo of Mickey Mouse to the NYC Covid Safe app as evidence of vaccination went viral earlier this month – vaccine verification apps are opening a Pandora’s book for privacy reasons and are subject to forged evidence, which could lead to a false sense of protection when entering a vaccine-intensive establishment such as a restaurant or workplace.

“The technology companies promised us that exposure warning apps would stop the pandemic. They failed,” said Cahn, founder and CEO of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project and a fellow at the NYU School of Law. “Now the vaccine apps will fail us once again, and I fear they will do lasting damage to trust in the vaccines.”

Vaccine pass apps are about to be everywhere.  It can get complicated

He said that it is easy to forge some apps, not all residents own a smartphone and persistent questions about how user data will be handled will Limit the success of the tools. He is among the most important among the privacy fears the question of whether location or medical data will be collected and stored and who should have access to this information.

The companies behind the many apps on the market have said that they do not want to store data, but the perception may still discourage some. (The case has already been politicized this year. For example, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis banned the use of vaccine passports in the state in April, citing freedom and privacy concerns.)

The Vaccination Credential Initiative – which includes IBM, Microsoft, Salesforce, Oracle, the Mayo Clinic and the Commons Project – plays a key role in the development of US standards and guidelines for digital healthcare. It requires that participating apps do not store data on a central server or aggregate so that an issuer does not know a person’s location history.

Still, Cahn argues for the money the states spent on Developing apps can be better used as financial incentives and paid for without the hesitation vaccine. His organization reported that the New York Excelsior app cost nearly $ 27 million to develop – more than 10 times the project’s original budget. (The state told The New York Times that it had only spent $ 4.7 million to date and would only reach the full amount if the program was a success.)

“Despite all these apps, the best evidence of vaccination is still the laminated CDC card I have in my pocket,” he said.

Another major problem stems from which apps each location or business decides to require for vaccination security. Meanwhile, Samsung refused to share if it opens the digital wallet for apps beyond the CommonHealth, but “without universal acceptance, it will have the effect of cutting back on [app] noise will remain limited, “said Gazeley.

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