During a virtual summit on Thursday, European Union (EU) leaders agreed to introduce a “digital vaccine certificate” program within the next three months.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that EU member states have agreed on a uniform standard for the data that will be stored on these vaccine passports but each country will decide what people are allowed to do when they travel with a vaccine passport.
According to von der Leyen, these vaccine passports will store the following data:
- A unique identification code
- Information on the type of vaccines the holder has received
- A “minimum data set that is necessary for each certificate”
The European Commission will also create a gateway that makes the data from each member state's vaccine passports interoperable.
Several EU countries have hinted at the type of restrictions they will be imposing on those who don't hold an EU vaccine passport. Austria and Greece suggested that they will restrict travel for people who aren't vaccinated while Spain suggested that non-vaccinated people will have to be tested before entering the country.
Other EU countries have pushed back on the idea of using vaccine passports to restrict travel with France and Belgium expressing concern that easing travel restrictions for vaccinated people would discriminate against others.
The EU's announcement of this digital vaccine passport follows several other countries introducing or proposing similar digital passport schemes that prevent people from traveling unless they're vaccinated.
Israel introduced its vaccine passport app last week and now requires citizens to prove that they're vaccinated to access hotels and gyms. Canada announced digital immunity passports last December and said those who refuse to take the coronavirus vaccine will face restrictions. And in the UK, it's looking increasingly likely that citizens will be required to show digital vaccine passports domestically to access public venues.
While governments around the world have eagerly embraced the idea of restricting their citizen's ability to travel and enter public venues unless they hold a vaccine passport, civil rights groups have warned about the detrimental effect these measures have on civil liberties.
Mark Johnson, the Legal and Policy Officer for privacy and civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, has described vaccine passports as “discriminatory,” “invasive,” and “unnecessary.” He added that these passports could also result in a “huge, centralized government database and this could mean data sharing between police, border forces” and more.