On paper, this latest effort should be much simpler, but businesses face a crowded app market and the potential for privacy concerns among some Americans.
“If Big Tech has specific applications that they are going to work with, it would drastically reduce the volume of application solutions that are currently flooding the market,” said Sam Gazeley, digital research analyst at ABI Research. “This would help to some extent by removing the risk of fraudulent certification of forged documents entering circulation.”
In addition to checking the status of the vaccine, apps such as the CommonHealth app and the New York Excelsior Pass app developed by IBM provide a scannable QR code for entry into different businesses. They do not display any personal information beyond whether that person was shot.
Some experts say companies like Samsung, Google and Apple could play an important role in bringing the private and public sectors together to create verifiable supporting documents.
“Tech companies are helping lead the way by surpassing US efforts on verifiable digital Covid-19 credentials, but perhaps more importantly, by storing portable digital data on consumer health in digital portfolios, ”said Donna Medeiros, senior research director at market research firm Gartner. “It means using cell phones to share our data in a standardized way when, where and with whom we want.”
Vaccine state apps have been quickly adopted in California, New York and Louisiana as more people download their data and store it on their devices, largely due to local governments requiring proof of vaccination to enter certain areas. It’s also an attractive effort for smartphone makers who don’t have to manage the process on their own.
Gazeley said serving as a storage solution is less risky than creating location monitoring software that is loaded with privacy concerns.
Make a mark
Amy Loomis, research director at IDC who closely follows future work trends, said Big Tech’s efforts to support vaccine health card applications are naturally better prepared for success.
“Language matters,” she said. “No one wants to be ‘tracked’ or tracked, but we show ‘proof of’ all the time – proof of employment with a badge, proof of legal age with a license.
“Even if [Apple and Google’s] the implication is limited to providing the storage solution for the certificate itself, many will associate it with the issuance by [the company] even if it doesn’t, “Gazeley said.” So that way, it pays them more than the attempts of the contact tracing app. “
“Tech companies have promised us exposure notification apps will stop the pandemic. They failed, ”said Cahn, founder and executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project and a fellow of the NYU School of Law. “Now vaccine applications will fail us yet again, and I fear they will permanently damage public confidence in vaccines.”
He said that the fact that some apps are easy to tamper with, not all citizens own a smartphone, and the lingering questions about how user data is managed will be limit the success of the tools. The main concern about privacy, he said, is whether location or medical data will be collected and stored and who will have access to that information.
The Vaccination Credential Initiative – which includes IBM, Microsoft, Salesforce, Oracle, Mayo Clinic, and the Commons Project – plays a key role in developing U.S. standards and guidelines for digital health passes. This requires that participating applications do not save the data on a central server or be aggregated, so that an issuer would not know a person’s location history.
“Despite all of these applications, the best proof of vaccination is still the laminated CDC card that I carry in my pocket,” he said.
Another major problem stems from the applications that each site or company decides to require for proof of vaccination. Meanwhile, Samsung declined to say whether it would open its digital wallet to applications beyond CommonHealth, but “without universal acceptance, the impact it will have on reducing the [app] noise will remain limited, ”Gazeley said.