Covid-19 vaccination certificates challenge the data privacy

Covid-19 vaccination certificates challenge the data privacy
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November 24, 2021

Preventor believes that transparency in data management will be key to the successful implementation of these tools in a scenario in which fraud, identity theft and cybercrime are the order of the day, while on the other hand, regulations are becoming increasingly strict regarding the handling of sensitive data by public entities and companies, as well as the penalties for those who violate them. 


Italy, one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic in the West, became one of the pioneers in requiring mandatory vaccination cards for the country's workers, setting a trend that is being considered in other countries in order to encourage vaccination in a decisive phase for public health.

And as these plans advance, the debate is also growing regarding the adoption of these solutions, which, although they would contribute to the complete reactivation of massive events such as concerts or international tourism, could also exclude communities where vaccination rates are not advancing at the same pace or where digitization is not as widespread.

Trust, a determining factor

A survey by the Spanish firm Panda Security found that 56% of Americans do not feel comfortable handing over their health history to obtain the various vaccination passports, in a time when cyber-attacks have increased dramatically around the world.

In the same survey, Americans were asked in which types of activities such passports should be required and nearly 59% said that none of the above should be required, including sports and entertainment, schools and daycare, workplaces and offices.

Panda notes that this is understandable considering that at least 33,000 unemployment benefit claimants were exposed to a data security breach in that country, while "Google reported blocking 18 million daily phishing and malware emails related to the coronavirus in April 2020." (Panda Security Graph).

On the other hand, travelers are more receptive to these initiatives and a global report found that 87% of travelers would support vaccination passports to boost international tourism and 60% support them as a requirement for domestic travel, according to Statista Research.

Another key consideration regarding the adoption of these certificates is the degree of digital adoption in the different territories, since in the case of the U.S., 14% of those consulted in rural communities by Pew Research Center indicated that while they have a cell phone they do not have a smartphone, which leaves them unequal in the event that these measures are extended throughout the country.

A comprehensive federal privacy law

In the U.S., the implementation of these certificates entails innumerable challenges given that the states have their own autonomy, which means that the initiatives are not widespread in the country. In fact, while San Francisco (California) mandated vaccination for workers, in Florida the measures have been much more flexible and mandatory vaccination has been blocked.

This situation, according to a report by the Brookings Research Center, raises the need for a comprehensive federal privacy law in the U.S. to replace "the current patchwork" of regulations that makes it more difficult to adopt this type of measures in the face of critical voices that hide behind the defense of freedoms, the foundation of the U.S. Magna Carta.

As of November 1, 246,594,191 cases of coronavirus had been reported worldwide and more than 4.9 million deaths, while 6,893 million doses of the different vaccines had been administered, according to figures from the World Health Organization (WHO).

In the region of the Americas, 93,652,790 cases and 2,295,206 deaths have been recorded to date, with the U.S. being the most affected country in the continent with 45,635,708 confirmed cases.

The number of app downloads increases

According to figures from Statista, in the third quarter of 2021 alone there were 7.1 million downloads of the CovPass app, a digital Covid-19 vaccination certificate launched in Germany by the Robert Koch Institute that allows unrestricted travel in the European Union.

On the other hand, its British peer NHS recorded 7.7 million downloads in the third quarter of 2021 alone and the Dutch CoronaCheck surpassed two million, showing that "people were eager to travel again for pleasure." (Statista chart - with consolidated download figures from Q1 to Q3).

Digital certificates gained confidence and today dominate in Europe, which had already fertilized ground with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into operation in 2018 with tough penalties for potential non-compliance, which has made it easier to adopt these tools on the continent. 

Other regions are making particular efforts and developing their own solutions, for which Preventor considers it strategic in order to be able to adopt several layers of security which allow companies and countries to have a complete overview with automatable tools and which make it possible to compare this information in different territories in a short period of time.

Verifying the authenticity of documents in less than 60 seconds with technologies such as Optical Readable Character (OCR), recognizing the voice and face of users with the support of accurate algorithms that can identify people even using facial masks, among other solutions, will be predominant and will be extended on these platforms to generate comprehensive data protection in this scenario where the revival of the global economy is sought at all costs. 

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