Despite the flashy advertisements, however, it is still too early to say how well Israel’s program will work in practice – or what that will mean for vaccine passports in general. A few ethicists support that such programs can further entrench existing inequalities, and this is already the case with Israel’s laissez-passer, as few Palestinians in the occupied Gaza and West Bank territories have access to vaccines.
The green pass is also a potential privacy nightmare, says Orr Dunkelman, professor of computer science at the University of Haifa and a member of the board of directors of Privacy Israel. He says the pass reveals information that those checking the credentials don’t need to know, such as when a user recovered from a covid or received a vaccine. The app also uses an outdated crypto library which is more vulnerable to security vulnerabilities, Orr explains. Importantly, since the app is not open source, no third party expert can verify whether these concerns are valid.
“It’s a disaster in the making,” says Ran Bar Zik, software columnist for the Haaretz newspaper.
Zik recommends another option currently available under the green pass program: downloading a paper vaccination certificate instead of using the app. While it is possible, app is expected to become the most popular verification method.
In the United States, developers are trying to resolve these privacy concerns before any major deployment. Ramesh Raskar heads the PathCheck Foundation at MIT, which partnered with design consulting firm Ideo on a low-tech solution. Their prototype uses a paper card, similar to the one people currently receive when they are vaccinated.
The paper card could offer several forms of verification, scannable as QR codes, allowing you to show a concert attendant only your immunization status while showing another more informative option to health care providers.
“Getting on a bus or going to a concert, you have to have a solution that is very easy to use and that offers a level of privacy protection,” he says. But other situations may require more information: an airline wants to know you are who you say you are, for example, and hospitals need accurate medical records.
It’s not just about making sure you don’t have to pass on personal information to walk into a bar: privacy is also important for those who are undocumented or distrust of the government, says Raskar. . It’s important for businesses not to create another “hackable repository” when they look at your information, he adds.