GOBankingRates Explores the Benefits and Risks of the Upcoming COVID-19 Passport by IBM

Millions across the world are eagerly anticipating future travel as COVID-19 vaccinations continue to ramp up, cases are trending down, and brighter days are on the horizon. Even though ‘vaxications’ are on the rise, traveling in our current world is not going to be as easy as it once was pre-pandemic.

Additional travel to-do’s will be added to the lists of anyone who wants to travel to America like evidence that they have tested negative for COVID-19 and with the emergence of digital vaccine passports. With over 400 million vaccinated against the virus worldwide, print-outs and photos of vaccination records are easily faked or misplaced, so it’s no wonder that tech companies are jumping to the challenge of providing solutions to make travel once again safer for all. 

Among the most eagerly anticipated is the Digital Health Pass from IBM, which will be used by Moderna, and which aims to provide organizations with a way to bring people back to shared physical locations safely, from offices and classrooms to airline flights. While some detractors of vaccine passports say they present unprecedented threats to privacy, security and freedom, IBM tells GOBankingRates that the COVID passport was created with “privacy as the starting point.” The Digital Health Pass, which is built on IBM’s blockchain technology, will allow users to show only encrypted verification of their vaccination status without revealing more personal information openly. 

Dr. Sean Manion, the Chief Science Officer for ConsenSys Health – part of ConsenSys, one of the world’s biggest blockchain companies – tells GOBankingRates that if it works as promised, the passport will allow those who have been vaccinated and have access to the necessary technology to volunteer and share this information in a hassle-free manner. However, with the benefits of COVID passports comes worry as many critics are concerned about serious privacy issues around health data. Asked about these concerns, IBM’S Day says that the company took a privacy-first approach when designing the Digital Health Pass. “For example, once a vaccine is administered to an individual, the individual is issued a verifiable health credential that is only included in that individual’s encrypted digital wallet on their smartphone,” Day tells GOBankingRates.

As more and more of us get vaccinated while the world awaits herd immunity, individuals will need to determine whether they are okay with handing over sensitive healthcare information to flight attendants and even the government in exchange for some semblance of the way life was pre-COVID.

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