Digital Passports | Mobile Apps

21 Sep

Digital Vaccine Passports – Are They a Blessing or a Security Risk?

Digital passports: are they the answer to opening up the country again or simply an unsecured backdoor left swinging in the wind? How would a digital vaccine passport affect, your business, and your personal life? These are the questions that need answering if we are ever to get back to ‘normal life’.

The new normal is fraught with restrictions regarding large gatherings of people, whether for entertainment, sporting events, or larger businesses. Covid has a lot to answer for having wrenched much of our hard-earned freedoms away from us.

With bans and restrictions on international travel affecting tourism and the economy, it’s no wonder the government and the World Health Organisation are looking for ways to remove the Covid shackles. But in order to grant us our freedom of movement, will this be at the cost of our digital security?

digital certificate vs. physical certificate

In South Africa and many other countries, paper-based vaccine certificates are the current form of proof of vaccination. However, the concern is that paper-based versions can easily be forged or tampered with, and even lost. In addition, there is no way to prove the EVDS (Electronic Vaccination Data System) number on the certificate is valid or genuine.

QR based digital certificates would remedy the situation allowing users to either print the QR code or download it onto their phone to present as proof of their vaccine status. This is an attempt by the WHO (World Health Organisation) to standardise vaccination proof globally. This initiative is thought to be a solution to possible fraud using security which meets international standards.

The downside, as we already know, is that QR codes come with their share of digital risks. If you aren’t aware of the risks, be sure to read our blog on the risks of QR codes here.

benefits of a digital passport

The WHO advocates the use of the digital passport which can be used for continued trace. The record will form part of an individual’s medical history and provide proof of vaccination status to places of study, employers, and at international borders.

A global digital passport –

  • Provides health workers with necessary information regarding subsequent doses or health services required.
  • Provides information regarding vaccine dose, vaccine type, and schedule of when the next dose is due.
  • Enables investigation into adverse vaccine effects and vaccine safety.
  • Allows for monitoring of vaccine status of individuals.
  • Proves vaccine status after a positive Covid-19 test and helps to understand vaccine effectiveness.
  • Provides proof of vaccine status for tertiary education, work, and travel.

when can we expect the digital passport?

Health minister Joe Phaahla announced that the government is looking at launching a digital Covid-19 vaccine certificate in the coming weeks. However, this is still very much a work in progress, and currently, no country offers this digital passport.

Once released, the digital passport would be available to all those who have their personal information stored on the EVDS system, including those vaccinated over the past months. The government plans to request that the passport is used to gain access to sporting events, large entertainment areas, and some businesses. However, public facilities and services will not be subjected to this requirement as the vaccine is not mandatory.

final thoughts

A digital passport could be the answer to all our freedom woes. However, as with any app or technology that uses your personal information, you should be aware there are always risks involved. All eyes are on world governments to see how they plan to roll out digital vaccine passports and what security measures will be in place.

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