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Ignoring privacy and civil liberties concerns, UK pushes ahead with vaccine passport

The app, that was once dismissed as a conspiracy, has come to pass.

Despite continuous warnings from experts, the UK government has decided to go ahead with using the NHS app for validating the vaccination status of individuals. Several privacy advocate groups and security researchers have argued against such a move as identifiable private medical information of UK citizens would be made vulnerable to theft, not to mention the civil liberties implications.

The NHS App, launched back in January 2019, is now going to be used as the vaccine passport starting from May 19 in the UK. “You can access the app through mobile devices such as a smartphone or by tablet. Proof of your COVID-19 vaccination status will be shown within the NHS app,” said the UK government this week.

It is worth noting that the app would be used for validating vaccination for the purposes of facilitating international travel in the initial stages. That said, the UK government is said to be working on the wider application of such vaccination passports.

The UK government is still “considering a range of evidence around COVID-status certification and whether it may have a role in opening up higher-risk settings safely.”

Campaign group Big Brother Watch recently released a report warning that using vaccination certificates for COVID via the NHS App would mean linking individuals’ identities as “NHS records contain a wealth of identifiable, sensitive information including NHS numbers.”

“Using the NHS App for a proof of a vaccine comes with a significant further privacy risk due to the wealth of other personal information available within it, from prescriptions to addresses, and these issues are yet to be addressed,” the group said.

Several UK politicians and leaders, including 78 MPs and 11 lords, have all voiced out their concerns against the use of the NHS App for vaccination validation and have backed the campaign against COVID-19 certificates.

The idea of vaccination passports/certificates is being strongly entertained across the globe, be it the US or the EU. While New York has launched an Excelsior Pass in partnership with IBM, there seem to be strong discussions for launching a vaccine passport system by June in the EU.

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