You might soon have an additional app on your phone: a digital vaccination passport that allows people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 to travel, enter business establishments and attend events. Not having the app could deny people access.
The theory goes that vaccination passport apps can help society reopen despite still-high infection risks, including from more infectious and deadly strains of the coronavirus, because they allow protected people to resume normal activities while keeping people vulnerable to infection out of high-risk environments.
Vaccination passports, however, can have unintended, negative consequences. And beyond ethical issues, building vaccination passport apps is far from straightforward. As a cybersecurity researcher, I see several challenges, including how best to ensure security and privacy, and to get people to trust the verification systems.
Like nationality, vaccine status is not visible to others. Passports and government IDs have long been used to prove identity, citizenship and birth dates, and the World Health Organization’s carte jaune, or yellow card, has served this role to prove vaccinations for international travel…