Though the Biden administration suggested it would not implement a federal COVID-19 verification system, Big Tech has taken the reins and plans to step in as Big Brother. Google and Apple have announced updates that will allow users to display their coronavirus vaccination status.
Liberal Big Tech companies Google and Apple have plans to develop a scannable barcode — or QR code — for their respective phones, according to NBC News. The QR code will enable information to be easily pulled up to verify if an individual has been vaccinated against COVID-19, or not.
The development of digital vaccine passports has raised concerns among some privacy advocates. The Brookings Institution noted that one foundational aspect of creating a digital vaccine verification system includes developing a centralized database. That database would “be vulnerable to data breaches, government surveillance, or corporate misuse depending on what privacy and security measures are in place and what entities have access to the data,” the Brookings Institution wrote.
And even though the Biden administration publicly stated it would not mandate COVID-19 “vaccine passports,” it hinted in March that it was coordinating with private companies to have them create verification systems to do just that. According to The Associated Press,
“[W]hile more severe measures — such as mandating vaccines for interstate travel or changing how the federal government reimburses treatment for those who are unvaccinated and become ill with COVID-19 — have been discussed, the administration worried that they would be too polarizing at this time. An administration official said the interstate travel vaccination requirement was not under consideration at the moment.
“That’s not to say they won’t be implemented in the future, as public opinion continues to shift toward requiring vaccinations as a means to restore normalcy.”
Google announced June 30 that it had “updated its Passes API to enable a simple and secure way to store and access COVID vaccination and test cards on Android devices.” The announcement explained how the application programming interfaces (APIs) worked:
“Starting today, developers from healthcare organizations, government agencies and organizations authorized by public health authorities to distribute COVID vaccines and/or tests will have access to these APIs to create a digital version of COVID vaccination or test information.”
Apple said its newest operating system coming this fall, iOS 15, will also include similar updates to allow for readily available proof of COVID-19 vaccination. “In iOS 15, users worldwide have an additional option for storing medical records of immunizations and test results directly in the Health app,” Apple noted in a press release June 7. “[I]t can allow patients to download verifiable COVID-19 vaccination or test result records from an online browser or QR code, so they can easily access them at any time.”
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