April 17th, 2024

How vaccine passports are designed is the real issue, not if they’re needed

By Lethbridge Herald Opinion on May 15, 2021.

The question of whether Canada should create COVID-19 vaccine passports was answered by Health Minister Patty Hadju this week, when she confirmed that the federal government will create such a system to allow Canadians to travel internationally again. Now is the time to consider who in Canada will provide such passports, and how they should be designed and deployed.
Vaccine passports of one design or another are already in operation in several countries and regions around the world, including Israel, Denmark, China, Mexico and Lebanon.
The European Union is developing one and so is the UK, and New York has its own system. In these and other places, vaccine passports are helping to bring life back to normal, while facilitating domestic and international travel.
For all these benefits, there are good reasons for Canadians to be concerned about the privacy impacts of vaccine passports. History teaches us that measures enacted to respond to emergencies are often “sticky.”
Income tax was introduced as a temporary measure during the First World War, yet last week, millions of Canadians filed their annual returns.
Correspondingly, privacy campaigners have expressed concerns that a passport system used to check our vaccination status before entering a store or a concert venue during COVID times could form the backbone of a long-lasting system of location-based surveillance.
These are legitimate concerns, but our research makes clear that choices can be made in the design characteristics of a vaccine passport system and the rules governing their use to avert them. We can make a vaccine passport that maximizes public health benefits while minimizing privacy and other human rights impacts.
To do this, several critical questions need to be addressed at the outset.
First, who should be permitted to issue vaccination passports?
The private sector is taking the lead in many countries and regions. If governments in Canada don’t act, likely the private sector will introduce vaccine passports here too, raising a host of worries relating to equity, discrimination and privacy. If we want access to vaccine passports for all who qualify, governments need to issue passports themselves or regulate the incipient market in vaccine passports.
Second, what information should vaccine passports include?
Concerns that vaccine passports could be used to track our movements are very real. But to do so, vaccine passports would need to encode information about our identity — like our name, or a unique identifier, like our Social Insurance Number (SIN). As a matter of principle, vaccine passports should collect as little information about us as possible, possibly not even containing our names. This is known as “data minimization.”
Finally, what technological form will the passports take?
Most proposals call for digital passports as scannable QR codes or an app on your phone. But digital systems make it easy to collect and store data about the use of vaccine passports, forever. By contrast, paper-based systems could be better at protecting privacy. Flashing a paper-based passport at a security guard does not risk creating the permanent data trail that scanning a digital credential might. Yet it may be possible to develop a digital passport system that leverages the technologies found in contact-tracing apps to help protect our privacy.
We should also consider who can ask to see your vaccine passport; how vaccine passports will be verified and validated when they are presented to gain access to a place or a service; and what information can be collected and stored whenever a passport holder is required to show it.
Good policy can mitigate privacy concerns in each case. For example, governments could mandate that entities that are permitted to inspect the vaccine passport may simply verify the information encoded into the passport without retaining it for any purpose.
Vaccine passports will of course be opposed by some on principled grounds. We believe, however, that social justice is best advanced by ending the pandemic and restoring normal life as quickly as possible. If vaccine passports can help to do that, then we should call upon our governments to put systems in place with sufficient safeguards for important values, like privacy.
Vivek Krishnamurthy and Colleen M. Flood are law professors at the University of Ottawa. The authors are part of a research team funded by the federal COVID-19 Immunity Task Force.

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Southern Albertan

We are counting on needing a vaccine passport to visit our relatives in The Netherlands in the future.

John P Nightingale

I am curious. To the individual who graded SA (above) a “negative”. Easy to do that when you are anonymous isn’t it? So why?


unreal how easily there are those that accept the spate of incessant limitations, and all the ever new requirements that mask what are restrictions, on fundamental freedoms. the vaccine passports are just another leg iron, or the scarlet letter, now a “v”. to be sure, increasing control over society comes always with a “justification”: that to vanquish the bogey man we are made stupidly afraid of necessitates the loss of an inherent right here, and few more little infringements there…the old: “a reasonable limitation on one’s rights and freedoms in the interest of public safety and security.”
thus, the more scared, insecure, and even hysterical, one is made to feel, the easier it is to justify a narrower interpretation of what are rights and freedoms. indiscriminate carding, check stops, monitoring one’s phones and internet history, facial recognition programs, mandatory blood testing so as to be able to work this or that job, cctvs blooming like dandelions in spring…those are hallmarks of fascist and totalitarian societies. and yet, they are also now hallmarks of our society, and staples to varying combinations of all so-called free democracies the world over. do not be fooled that the pageantry of elections means freedom – the ussr had, and china continues to hold, elections; the thing is, all candidates represent the exact same social/power structure.
it then comes as no surprise that the apologists come to the fore on post world covid, just like they did in post world 9/11. freedom sure took a hit after that one, and so did the oversight and prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity. can you say guantanamo bay? can you believe there are still prisoners held there denied the most basic of rights and freedoms.
most today are so brow beat and insecure about most everything that they will not even blink an eye at the official narrative babble about how vaccine passports are not only acceptable, but that “…social justice is best advanced by ending the pandemic and restoring normal life as quickly as possible. If vaccine passports can help to do that, then we should call upon our governments to put systems in place with sufficient safeguards for important values, like privacy.” yeah. as if.
this is what is known as autocracy. one does not have to get the vaccine, or whatever (like a blood test to work, even though there is no suspicion of impairment), but if one wants to access their rights and freedoms – which now have been watered all the way down into the actual realm of wimpy privileges – then you have to consent to/accept the vaccine ie to travel, to shop, exercise, go to a show, or socialise at a business indoors; and take the blood test etc if you want to work; and, because there is the potential for criminals to be anywhere, you have to give up your id to the enforcers of this mess when simply moving from a to b or relaxing in a public space. yes sir – we have entered the realm whereby the official narrative has become that rights and freedoms really are each a privilege. the charter laws that uphold our rights and freedoms are merely privileges. and privileges and lack of, as we have come to see, are easily open to the whim of whatever/whomever is the power of the day that has the ability to exact their agenda on the frightened and huddled masses.


Excellent comment BIFF.


Where is the right of privacy? Please don’t use Europe or other countries as an excuse for this “Individual’s life control” instrument. Are not wearing mask, and the testing vaccines enough restrictions? The process of eliminating the privilege of association of humans doesn’t work eh!? Now the system, managed by private hands, is the one which will decide who can stay or who can leave. The discrimination continues and the Naive population just nod the head. Please citizens: open your minds, I would like to ask:
a) How this crazy document will help to Canada, by telling the other country that I have the vaccine?
b) Will this crazy document be free of charge? or is not more than another way to make money? If this is the case, the 80% of the population will stay in this big jail.
c) What exactly is the purpose of this passport system? These are my views:
1-To push people to only domestic travels and recreations, so this can justify the increasing of the fees everywhere the person go.
2- To exert a more sophisticated mean of control over the citizens in the world.
The fake COVID-19 idea, created by the powerful countries, is used as an instrument, not for the health of the human been (that is the least government’s concern), but as an attack to the trillions of humans who represent their problem. Why? Because once the humans open their eyes and learn how to say “no”, The power of those countries will be over.


thank you, roberto. you understand that the name of the game is power and control – it has always been that. people in power have the control, and they do not want anything to undermine their privileged position. it means great wealth, and it means exceptionalism, and it means the get to decide in their best interests. how power and control is kept is not rocket science: 1)divide and rule; 2)create and exploit fear/insecurity, which helps achieve point 1. at our core essence, we are from the same. many religions create fear and suspicion around false differences, as does politics. most “primitive” societies had it correct: they shared and understood the value of sharing. perhaps where they may have gotten it wrong would be if they did not allow enough leeway for individual differences…and so long as those differences do not undermine the freedoms of another, differences should be honoured if not entirely celebrated. so many so full of judgement, and yet, so many of those that do not wish to be judged…that is control, and the control freak is a hypocrite.
stay open and question…ask why and how. there is much we have been conditioned to believe is normal and/or the best/only way to approach life. and yet, so much of it is muzzling to the mind and stifling to growth.

Southern Albertan

Perhaps, this could be an interesting read, particularly the ‘Security and Privacy’ section at the end and, re: “vaccine passports being a polarizing topic”:
“Explainer: How vaccine passports for global travel will work”