COVID-19 vaccine passports could bring privacy concerns

COVID-19 vaccine passports could bring privacy concerns

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Could vaccine passports or digital health records proving you’ve been vaccinated against Covid-19 put your privacy at risk?

One tech company is warning it may not be worth using one in the future to get into a concert or a ball game.

New York state has one called the Excelsior Pass.

And Europe is considering a Digital Green Certificate to prove you don’t have the virus in order to travel.

Vaccine passports may be as simple as downloading a QR code onto an app on your cell phone, proving you’ve been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

They may be easy to use, but experts warn they may not be secure.

Rob Shavell is cofounder of Abine and DeleteMe, a tech company focusing on online privacy protection.

He said data breaches could be a big issue.

“So the confidence I think we have as a privacy company, or the American people have when we survey them, in the ability for institutions to protect our data is very low, as it should be,” he said.

Abine surveyed 1,100 Americans about vaccine passports, finding 39% of them are concerned about their privacy.

And adults 35 and older are more skeptical.

“I think that is natural. But it is not to say that the younger generation is unconcerned. They have their own experiences with sharing data, and negative consequences of oversharing on social media and on Instagram affecting their lives, whether it’s their college applications or their first job,” Shavell said.

Study shows Americans 35 and older are more skeptical of Covid-19 vaccine/health passports.
Study shows Americans 35 and older are more skeptical of Covid-19 vaccine/health passports. (Source: Abine/DeleteMe)

Yet nearly 50 percent of Americans support them despite the risks.

Shavell said it’s not the information about whether you’re vaccinated or not that is the issue, if there were a data breach.

The other personal information saved with the passport could be damaging.

That information can wind up online, in a simple search of your name. It’s the kind of unwanted information people find on themselves that his company works with every day.

“We go out to these data brokers that are constantly scraping our data, including our health data, our addresses, the names of our friends and family and relatives, our ages, our parents maiden names and they’re collecting it all into these profiles,” Shavell said.

“These data brokers start to incorporate all the health care information they can into their profiles about us, without ever having our consent. And we think that’s a problem,” he said.

So what should you do if you need to show proof of vaccination to get into a venue?

Shavell recommends going low tech.

He said see if you can bring a copy of your vaccine card instead of downloading any apps.

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